Out in the Dark (2012)
Director: Michael Mayer
Cast: Nicholas Jacob, Michael Aloni, Jamil Khoury
Plot: A drama centered on the love affair between two men on opposite sites of the Mid-East conflict: Palestinian student Nimer, and Roy, an Israeli lawyer.
Genre: Drama / Romance
Awards: Nom. for FIPRESCI and Discovery Award (Toronto).
Rating: R21 for homosexual theme.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“I didn't plan to fall in love with you. All I know is that I want to be with you.”
Films from Israel sometimes work because they share a universality, a common humanity that everyone can understand. Something like The Band's Visit (2007) comes to mind. Occasionally, a more intra-cultural effort such as Fill the Void (2012) opens our eyes to another world of rich tradition, mannerisms and heritage. It is rewarding, but not always satisfying.
Out in the Dark, the first Israeli queer film I have seen, belongs to the former. Its treatment is low-key, letting the drama unfold as naturally as possible, while giving us a pair of likable characters who are put through some serious vilification. Director Michael Mayer makes his feature debut, and it is quite a remarkable picture because it is one of those LGBT films that eschews flamboyance and dramatic power for a more sensitive tone.
Nicholas Jacob (in his acting debut) and Michael Aloni play Nimr and Roy respectively. They become infatuated with each other when they first meet at a bar. Nimr is an Palestinian graduate, seeking to do further studies in Israel, while Roy is a successful Israeli lawyer. By bringing these two men from different backgrounds together romantically, Mayer expands at the risk of controversy the very nature of homosexuality across race, religion, and borders.
With the drama playing out naturally, Mayer also cleverly sets it up as a slow-building thriller, reflecting political tensions in the process. Nimr whose only dream is to study hard and be with Roy becomes the center of attention not only because he is gay, but because he is thought to pose a genuine threat to Israeli security.
Without revealing anything significant, we see Nimr crossing the border many times in the movie, sometimes legitimately, at other times, illegally or forced. The acting by the two leads are excellent, without drawing attention to themselves. This is not surprising as Mayer’s direction is, for a lack of a better descriptor, ordinary by intent.
Out in the Dark exists as an unobtrusive portrayal of the discriminated and dislocated. In a world of prejudice, misunderstanding and impurity, Nimr and Roy’s love for each other is affectionate, pure, and we hope, continuing.
Verdict: A low-key drama about the troubled romance between two men, a Palestinian and an Israeli, that is deftly executed.
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