Published Sep 09, 2012In blending both the taboo and cinematically ubiquitous subjects of homosexuality in Israel and an Israeli-Palestinian star-crossed romance, freshman director Michael Mayer has done the unlikely by injecting some fire into a stale, albeit relevant subject.
With Out in the Dark, he examines whether it's possible to remove the personal self from one's ideological background and political identity when Palestinian psychology student Nimr (Nicholas Jacob) develops a nascent romance with Jewish lawyer Roy (Michael Aloni).
Initially, their flirtations appear harmless enough, manifesting in hormonal desires and a twee, idealistic sense of worldly rightness. Roy takes Nimr home to his parents, pronouncing him his new boyfriend, much to their subdued, socially appropriate horror, while Nimr remains in the closet at home while living out in the open in Tel Aviv, where he's been granted permission to study at the University. Together, they remain hopeful for their future together, ignoring the emblazoned warning sides on both sides of the fence.
What Mayer manages to do with this acute assessment of the self as an amalgamation of social and political environments is balance harsh reality with the fuzzy haze of love. When Roy and Nimr are together, their intense chemistry mixes with a subdued, touching score and dreamlike cinematography to give a sense of safety within the moment. This is then juxtaposed with the harshness of the external world, where Nimr watches his politically radical brother beat and kill Palestinian homosexuals and anyone perceived as an Israeli collaborator.
This smart balance ensures investment in these characters and their doomed romance while ramping up the thriller sensibilities that dominate the third act. As tense and distressing as it is romantic, this thoughtful look at modern forbidden passions transcends the imposed confines of queer or provincial cinema, saying something important about the many signifiers that go into human connections from both ends, regardless of sexual orientation and geography. (M7200 Productions)