In an extraordinarily touching moment deep into Another Road Home, Israeli-born director Danae Elon asks Mahmoud "Musa" Obeidallah, her beloved Palestinian former caretaker, what it felt like to iron Elon's uniform back when she was enrolled in the Israeli army. He replies that he didn't mind, since he was ironing the clothes for a woman he cared for tremendously, not for the army. His heartwarming answer suggests that close personal relationships have the ability to transcend even the most deeply ingrained religious and political antagonism. That moment feels just a little too heartwarming, in fact, especially since so much of the rest of the film conveys the antithetical message that even among intelligent, progressive, good-hearted people, empathy and understanding have their limits.
Rooted in the old feminist maxim that the personal is the political, Another Road Home chronicles Elon's journey to reconnect with Obeidallah, the father of 11 who served her and her family for 20 years in a role that seemed to fall somewhere between babysitter and surrogate father. The journey leads Elon–the daughter of respected author Amos Elon, whose urbane, engaging presence figures prominently in the action–to a quiet neighborhood in New Jersey, where many of Obeidallah's successful, accomplished, well-educated adult sons now lead happy, peaceful lives worlds away from the war zone they left behind. But the scars of Israeli oppression linger on, informing nearly all of Elon's interactions with Obeidallah's family, and giving the scenes a knotty, riveting tension. Even in the United States decades later, it's hard for Elon and Obeidallah's conflicted sons to transcend the Israeli and Palestinian labels and relate to each other as human beings. But Elon seems to be searching desperately for that deeper connection. When Obeidallah finally arrives, bursting with good cheer and unconditional love, he seems almost like a deus ex machina, offering the optimistic resolution and absolution his sons so assiduously avoid. But the film earns its happy ending by wading through a gauntlet of prickly personal politics and confronting head-on the emotional ramifications of the Israeli-Palestinian equivalent of white privilege. Another Road Home unforgettably documents the kind of journey that leads not to easy answers, but rather to an even thornier knot of questions.