Rating: 2.5 stars
“This is the last thing I need before the municipal elections.” So says a character in “In Between” upon learning that his daughter is a lesbian. The comment — coming from a Palestinian Christian elected official — paints the Tel Aviv-set drama as a soap opera, set among conflicting mores in the Palestinian community of Israel. While the film, from the Hungarian-born, Israeli-based Palestinian filmmaker Maysaloun Hamoud , at times seems to unspool a laundry list of such timely issues as female sexuality and the oppression of women, one key performance brings those struggles to life.
The movie opens with a Muslim matron waxing a young woman’s legs and telling her how to satisfy a husband. The Old World advice stands in contrast to the young women at the story’s center, who are anything but satisfied with tradition.
“In Between” follows the lives of three Palestinians sharing an apartment: Laila (Mouna Hawa), a successful lawyer who loves to party; Salma (Sana Jammelieh), a music instructor and DJ whose Christian family doesn’t know she’s a lesbian; and Nur (Shaden Kanboura), a devout Muslim college student studying computer science.
Tensions flare when Nur, who wears a hijab, moves in with the more secular, liberal Laila and Salma. But the three roommates eventually bond in opposition to Nur’s abusive fiance (Henry Andrawes). As Nur, Kanboura delivers a performance that is the most varied and effective of the movie’s three stars, growing from the shy newcomer to become the story’s moral center and heart.
The debut feature from Hamoud, “In Between” has been playing the festival circuit since 2016, but it is only now being released in the United States, perhaps to capitalize on the #MeToo moment. Although “In Between” depicts a nation in crisis, it’s a crisis that’s viewed through the intimate lens of family dinners, where generations struggle over conflicting values. As Laila, Salma and Nur navigate these uncharted waters, it is friendship, Hamoud suggests, that will guide them.
Unrated. At the Avalon. Contains strong language and rape. In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles. 103 minutes.