(M) Julia Blake, Firass Dirani
This taut, tension-filled two-hander set in the claustrophobic confines of a Jewish widow’s apartment will have you absorbed to the very last frame.
The setting is Melbourne: Sadiq Mohammad (Firass Dirani) has narrowly escaped an inner city bombing attack on a local synagogue that has injured and killed many — including his partner in crime.
With the hunt on for Mohammad and helicopters overhead, he bundles Jewish widow Ulah Lippman (Julia Blake) into her apartment to disappear while awaiting instructions.
The spirited elderly victim quickly traverses terror and settles on a battle of wills with the young man, who is menacing at first but soon loses his resolve and collapses with a shrapnel wound.
As the tense war of wills and ideologies continues Lippman nurses Mohammad back to health while hiding him from authorities and a pesky neighbour.
They argue over the vexing complexities of the conflict in the Middle East over the course of this 89 minute film. The beauty is the way it carefully and cautiously develops the characters and their back stories.
With a screenplay that is so tight (at times airless) it has the slow build of a burning ember. Blake and Dirani give their characters nuance that slowly reveal a developing bond.
A screenplay like this doesn’t come around very often. This could have been written for the stage. In microcosm it is able to address global issues and also enables the viewer to care for the plight of both the victim and the perpetrator. It is as absorbing a piece of cinema as the issues it deals with.
Rather than being a stereotype, Dirani’s performance as Mohammad travels effortlessly through the screenplay. Blake’s character embodies grace, forgiveness and compassion in her performance, making this film a genuinely moving and worthwhile experience.