Saturday, April 28, 2018

DVDebut for one of the year's best films: Maysaloun Hamoud's IN BETWEEN

Below is TrustMovies' original review of a film 
that arrives on DVD this coming week. 
If you didn't catch it in theaters, 
now's your chance. It's a winner.

A terrific melodrama all about the evolving place of women in the Muslim world -- particularly that special Muslim world that exists within the state of Israel -- IN BETWEEN, the first full-length film from Budapest-born Maysaloun Hamoud -- is an impressive piece of work in several ways. It offers a look at three very different Muslim young women, each coming to grips with her own needs and desires that conflict with those of her parents, religion, and "tradition." Yet in Israel, for all the other problems that state presents for Muslims, these women are allowed to dress as they wish, become successful in careers usually reserved for men, and choose their significant other out of love, lust or just plain compatibility, rather than the more traditional, "arranged" manner.

Ms Hamoud, shown at left, wrote and directed her movie, and she succeeds equally well in both endeavors. Her dialog is smart and on-target while visually, she and her attractive, talented performers, in addition to the well-chosen locations, camera-work and editing, keep us not merely engrossed but pretty much swept along in all of the growing and mostly fraught goings-on. The filmmaker not only brings to fruition her story and characters, she also leaves them (and us) at an almost perfect moment of ironic, double-edged success: "in between," indeed. The movie's final frame is as memorable as any I've seen in a long while.

The leading characters here are Leila (Mouna Hawa (above), a successful, high-powered lawyer who'd like to meet the right man; Salma (Sana Jammelieh, below), an artist supporting herself as best she can, with an arranged marriage in store, even though her sexual preference is otherwise;

and Noor (Shaden Kanboura, below), a chubby, sweet, and highly traditional young woman about to marry an even more traditional jerk. When Noor moves to Tel Aviv in order to be closer to her school where she studies, and then in with the other two women, change begins to occur.

How this change happens and our characters evolve is particularly believable -- well conceived and executed, via the work of Hamoud and her actresses. Each of the women's stories is brought to fine life, and how they are interwoven is exemplary.

We see and empathize with the interplay of the desire for greater freedom, the needs of family, the demands of the workplace, and the place of men -- lovers (that's the very sexy Mahmud Shalaby, above), fiances, and fathers -- in all this.

The look we get at Arab night life in Israel may surprise you, but I don't doubt that's it's relatively authentic. Ditto the family scenes with both Salma and Noor. (There's a scene near the finale involving Noor, her father and her fiance that is quite surprising and moving.)

By the time we get to that final, wonderful moment of what is perhaps -- no, absolutely -- a victory, I wouldn't go so far as to call it Pyrrhic, but Ms Hamoud makes it clear that this is anything but complete. In Between is must-see for film-goers interested in the changing roles of women, particularly those in the Middle East.

From Film Movement, running 103 minutes and in Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles, the movie opened theatrically in the USA in early January and hits the street on DVD this coming Tuesday, May 1 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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