Out In The Dark

Out In The Dark


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

As barriers between lovers go, there are few more challenging than the wall that divides Israel and Palestine. That's only one of the problems facing the heroes of this story, but it's emblematic of the others, a symbol of multi-layered cultural division in the face of which individual desires can seem futile, especially if one is accustomed to living without hope.

Nicholas Jacob is Nimr, a Palestinian Arab for whom, at first, life seems pretty good. He's a psychology student with real prospects, hoping for a scholarship that will take him abroad. He's studying part of the time in Israel and - thanks to friends prepared to take him across the border at night - he has access to Israel's gay clubs. There he meets dashing young lawyer Roy (Michael Aloni) who, with his Eighties pop star looks, sweeps him off his feet, but also seems utterly devoted. In any other context, this would be a recipe for happiness. In that part of the world, however, it's a recipe for disaster.

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Though it's rather clumsily scripted, formulaic in structure and sometimes contrived, Out In The Dark is strengthened by its subtext and elevated by tender, affecting performances from the leads. Aloni's opportunities to stretch his acting skills are limited, in part because his character's insight into his own situation is limited by his expectations of privilege, but Jacob is more than capable of carrying the film and the chemistry between them is good. It is the gulf between their expectations and concomitant perspectives on the world that strains their relationship as much as any external factor. Sometimes they seem a little too young to believably navigate this as well as they do, but we are carried along by belief in their feelings or each other.

Out In The Dark is also important in that it is one of very few films to address the matter of 'honour crimes' committed against gay people, a very real source of fear in families all over the world that has tended to be overlooked as related narratives focus on vulnerable women. The film's approach to this is a balanced one, acknowledging the complexities of familial feelings and the growing generational divisions in opinion. In this context it also functions as a metaphor for concerns about colonialism and the power imbalance inherent in a rich young Jew taking an Arab student as his lover. Looking at things from the other direction, Roy's father fears that Nimr is using his son and may even have malevolent reasons for wanting to spend time in Israeli territory.

Underlying this, there's the story of the wall itself and the corruption it breeds on both sides, all those vested interests that make humane solutions seem impossible. It's difficult, given this, to avoid the story seeming heavy-handed to outsiders; this makes its simplicity important, reminding us how many real stories it represents. Questions of asylum arising in relation to it have international implications, especially where they focus on the perceived difference between persecution by a state and persecution by almost everybody who happens to live there. This helps to give the film a wider political relevance to accompany its universally accessible love story.

Ultimately a bittersweet tale of love against the odds, Out In The Dark is at its best when biting off more than it can chew. It will be interesting to see what writer/director Michael Mayer can do when he grows more confident in his storytelling abilities.

Reviewed on: 04 Jun 2013
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Out In The Dark packshot
An Israeli lawyer and a Palestinian student begin a secret gay love affair.
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Director: Michael Mayer

Writer: Yael Shafrir, Michael Mayer

Starring: Nicholas Jacob, Michael Aloni, Jamil Khoury

Year: 2012

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Israel, US, Palestine


Seret 2013

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