B

Close To Home

B

Close To Home

Director: Vidi Bilu, Dalia Hager
Runtime: 94 minutes
Cast: Smadar Sayar, Naama Schnendar, Irit Suki

Aside from some arresting street-level Jerusalem location footage, a lot of what Close To Home has to offer can be picked up just by reading a description of the plot. Smadar Sayar plays a cynical young woman slacking her way through her compulsory Israeli military service when she's paired up with Naama Schnendar, a gung-ho Pollyanna who wants to use her hitch to make a difference, both by protecting the city and by improving Israeli/Palestinian relations. First they hate each other, then they develop a grudging kinship, and after a first-hand experience with terrorism, they become best friends.

Writer-directors Vidi Bilu and Dalia Hager based Close To Home on their own army experience, which means it's full of detail about cranky superior officers and the best places to sneak a smoke. But though Bilu and Hager inject elements of comedy and romance, Close To Home stays a few shades too literal. Structurally, it isn't too different from a frivolous summer-camp comedy, especially when the women take breaks to go shopping, or help each other hook up with guys. Sayar and Schnendar are likeable performers, and if Bilu and Hager had pushed the "private school for girls" side of Close To Home a little harder, they could have had a sharp satire on their hands. Instead, it's all played straight and close to the surface.

Still, one idea running through Close To Home, while not developed enough, elevates the movie almost in spite of itself. Whether Sayar and Schnendar are feuding, shirking, or doing their jobs with due diligence, the ones who feel the brunt of their mood swings are the Palestinians, who have to wait until they get over themselves and get around to checking IDs. Close To Home is at its best when the giggly coming-of-age story intersects with the political reality of life in Jerusalem, and we're made to understand that even the stupid stuff that every 18-year-old goes through has consequences in a hot spot. When Sayar tells her C.O. that she didn't register enough Palestinians that day because "maybe I don't know what an Arab looks like," she's not rebelling out of any elevated social conscience, but because she's sullen and bratty. And in a divided Jerusalem, motivations affect outcomes.

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