Let It Be Morning review: Whimsical, wistful dramedy from Israel

Written and directed by Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin (“The Band Visit”), “Let It Be Morning”, based on the 2006 novel by Palestinian author Sayed Kashua, is a low-key, wistful, wryly observational dramedy in which an Arab village is nervous after a mysterious lockdown by the Israeli army.

Though a little slow-moving, this well-acted film, which was Israel’s official entry for the 2022 International Film Oscar, presents a timely, poignant, at times cleverly satirical, snapshot of Israeli-Palestinian relations. It also offers an often poignant look at a dysfunctional family at the center of it all.

Sami (a soulful Alex Bakri), a Palestinian-born Israeli citizen who works for a tech company in Jerusalem, has scornfully returned to his remote hometown with his wife Mira (Juna Suleiman) and young son Adam (Maruan Hamdan) at the wedding his younger brother Aziz (Samer Bisharat) with Lina (Yara Elham Jarrar). But after the party, Sami and his family are stuck at the home of his parents Tarek (Salim Daw) and Zahera (Izabel Ramadan) when the road out of town is closed by Israeli authorities. Not only is there no way out, but the village’s cellphone signals are out, as is eventually the electricity. It is less a question of why this happened than when normality will return?

The prevailing theory for the blockade is the presence of illegal West Bank Palestinians in the city, a factor that ultimately highlights a division in the Arab community. That one of these illegal residents (disparagingly called “Daffawis”) builds a second home for Sami and his family next to his parents poses a socio-ethical conundrum for Sami, who didn’t want the house to begin with – his controlling father wanted it for him.

Due to his youth in the city and the assumption that he lived a successful, more demanding life in the big city, there is great respect for the seemingly wise and level-headed Sami in his family and community. But as Sami will soon reveal, he’s not exactly the hero everyone thinks he is.

Still, Sami, as the town’s most dying man – fearing missing an important work presentation and losing his job – tries to lead a way out by sneaking up on a faltering border guard (Kosta Kaplan). He later joins forces with his hapless old friend – and beleaguered taxi driver – Abed (Ehab Salami) to launch a group protest against the siege.

But the film isn’t so much about escaping as it is about standing still, be it remaining in the provincial hometown or remaining in an unsatisfactory relationship. The latter is particularly well-explored from several angles: Sami and Mira are on the rocks, partly due to the affair, which Sami thinks he’s keeping a secret; Tarek and Zahera have a loveless marriage; for Sami’s defensive sister (Arin Saba) and her edgy husband (Doraid Liddawi) it’s barely clear; Abed longs for his estranged wife; and even the newly married Aziz already has concerns about what he has gotten himself into. These dynamics all lead to some lovely, thoughtful, sometimes amusing conversations between or about the various pairings.

An early image of a flock of stubborn pigeons proves to be an apt, tongue-in-cheek metaphor for the should-I-stay-or-should-I-go feeling that pervades the film.

The bonds of friendship are also considered, especially between the snobbish Sami and the needy Abed, who aren’t the same as they might have been. Furthermore, a possible reason why Ashraf (Nadib Spadi), the town’s tough guy, has remained loyal to his childhood friend, Sami, adds an intriguing dimension to the story’s underlying theme of freedom versus oppression.

“Let it be tomorrow”

In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles

Not rated

Duration: 1 hour, 41 minutes

Play: Lammle Royal, West Los Angeles

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2023-02-02/review-let-it-be-morning-explores-a-familys-dysfunction-amid-israeli-palestinian-tensions Let It Be Morning review: Whimsical, wistful dramedy from Israel

Sarah Ridley

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