This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 27th October 2013
This well-meaning, intelligent and somewhat controversial perspective of daily life in the West Bank works hard in its telling and does many things right, but somehow ultimately left me disappointingly unmoved and slightly annoyed.
Canadian doctor Chloe lives on the Israeli side of the separation wall, travelling across the border each day to work in a Palestinian clinic that cares for pregnant refugees. She balances close relationships with an Arab woman, Rand (an excellent Sabrina Ouazani from The Past) and the young female Israeli soldier, Ava, who is unwillingly tasked with border control. Inevitably, as Chloe’s world becomes entwined with the travails of both sides of the war, her loyalties are challenged.
Inch’Allah is a potentially fascinating take on why ordinary people are pushed to acts of violence and how oppressive the regime is for those trapped beneath it. Expertly photographed (though one may tire of the constant handheld-behind-the-protagonist’s-head shots), scenes of West Bank life are brilliantly realised and the acting from all the supporting players is superb.
Regrettably, it is lead actress Evelyne Brochu who alienated my sympathies, with her pouty face taking up most of the frames and the film’s dramatic intentions let down by her character’s unconvincing choices. It may be invidious to compare them, but Chloe has none of the charisma of the lead in Omar (another West Bank thriller and recent film festival standout). Though Chloe’s path leads to drama, her moral trajectory feels somewhat obvious, letting down the crucial narrative requirements.
The setting and concept is well-constructed and this is certainly “worthy” filmmaking (which side of the wall your sympathies fall on is another matter), but one is left with a lingering sense of having been manipulated. Given the subject, is this inevitable? Sadly, the film doesn’t go far enough to interrogate that question.