Thursday 26 December 2019

Movie Review: Inch'Allah (2012)

A drama about emotional torment caused by unyielding despair, Inch'Allah struggles to establish narrative momentum but gains focus in the final third.

Chloé (Évelyne Brochu) is a Canadian doctor living in Israel but crossing daily into the occupied West Bank to work in a Palestinian refugee camp, where the pregnant Rand (Sabrina Ouazani) is one of her patients. Chloé's best friend is Israeli army conscript Ava (Sivan Levy), who hates being stationed at the often chaotic crossing point.

Gradually Chloé gets to know Rand's family, including brother Faysal (Yousef Sweid) who runs a print shop for posters of Palestinians killed in violent clashes. Rand and other destitute Palestinians spend their days sorting through heaps of trash in the shadow of the wall separating Israel from the West Bank. Chloé is increasingly tormented by exposure to misery, and the contrast with comfortable life in Israel. When Rand goes into labour and Chloé is late to arrive, her life starts to unravel.

A Canadian production, Inch'Allah (meaning "God willing" in Arabic) takes time to delve into the context of two adjoining realities. Through the eyes of outsider Chloé, writer and director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette uses hand-held cameras, close-up focus and languid pacing to introduce a hopeless Palestinian existence in the filthy shadow of the border wall. This is a place where dreams of a homeland are crushed, and minor and strategically insignificant military acts against Israeli settlements are the only cause for celebration.

The prevailing despair grinds down Chloé's psyche, her depression deepened by a seemingly oblivious attitude in Israel, where she can always have a good time in Ava's company. Her outsider status also means she is never really welcome on either side of the wall, and a single wrong action or comment can erode all trust.

Cinematically Chloé's emotional journey is a slow and disjointed affair, Barbeau-Lavalette unable to rise much above an observational stance. The film's first two acts are achingly plodding and thematically repetitive, snippets of life more appropriate for documentary packaging. Brochu's often blank and unconvincing representation of a doctor does not help.

The energy picks up considerably once Rand's pregnancy reaches the delivery stage, a cordoned-off hospital and Chloé's sojourn to Tel Aviv combining to finally create compelling drama. From there Barbeau-Lavalette steers the film to a poignant denouement, the violence previously confined to the background finally intruding into Chloé's life in a most profound way. When perceived injustices are stacked in suffocating layers, any twinkle of hope struggles to survive.

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