Published Sep 16, 2010I should be clear before going any further; I have never walked out of a movie — ever. Whether I'm at a press screening reviewing a film or a paying customer just out for a laugh with my mates, I refuse to walk out, even if it's nails-on-a-chalkboard. There's a first time for everything, and Miral takes the honour of popping my ejectee cherry. But I wasn't alone. At the TIFF press screening, about 50 to 75 members of the national and international press corps walked out in the first 30 minutes. I at least stuck it out for 75; I should be given a medal.
Miral, directed by Julian Schnabel, starring Alexander Siddig (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Willem Dafoe, Vanessa Redgrave, Hiam Abbass and a ludicrously miscast Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), follows a generation of women and narratives that are inextricably linked with Hind Husseini's Palestinian school for orphans in the West Bank during the ever-present conflicts with Israel.
Based on a true story by Rula Jebreal, Miral fails to portray the plight of the Palestinians with an inkling of veracity or authenticity. Instead, we're presented with precocious, self-conscious dialogue, saint-like and saccharine caricatures, bad pacing, rough-hewn cuts and edits, and a basic storyline that's neither dynamic nor reflexive, relying too heavily on exposition that hits you over the head with manipulative anguish and histrionics.
It has all the tropes of a bad kitchen sink drama and the best performance, ironically, comes from a five-year-old, while the adult actors confuse genuine emotion with genuine emo. And while I admit that I walked out before I could find out what happens, 20 dollars says Miral dies in the end.
This is a shocking effort from wildly talented director Schnabel, whose unique vision on past efforts (Before Night Falls) has dried up here. His scattershot style of plot development allows you to latch onto nothing concrete about these characters or their struggle, simply ringing false, although he does manage to include many shots of old villagers looking forlorn as their homes are demolished.
Even though this is a France-India-Israel-Italy co-production, it feels like a Westerner on the outside trying to tell the story with only library books as a tool. I mean, seriously, how could he have thought that casting Pinto as an Arab-Palestinian was a good idea?
In a recent interview with Toro Magazine, Schnabel audaciously said that Miral will change your life. He's right. For the rest of my life, I'll never see one of his films again — just awful.