Movie Review - Omar

It seems like every other film that makes its way to the United States from the Middle East, particularly Israel or Palestine, is about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. This is yet another. Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad wrote and directed this story of an Arab man who plots with his two best friends to attack what are presumably Israeli soldiers, while also being secretly in love with the sister of one of his best friends. It is the second film from Abu-Assad to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Adam Bakri stars as Omar, a baker who is probably in his early to mid-twenties. Leem Lubany co-stars as Nadia, a student who might be a senior in high school or a freshman in college. Iyad Hoorani plays Tarek, the brother of Nadia who seems a bit older than Omar. It was unclear if Tarek knew about Omar and Nadia, but it felt like Omar was keeping his relationship with Nadia secret.

It is perhaps not secrecy, but there is a conservative, reserved or innocent nature to the romance between Omar and Nadia. They've probably been seeing each other for weeks. Yet, months and maybe a year goes by before they even kiss.

One reason is because Omar is sent to prison on charges of murder, so they're physically separated for a long time. Even if he hadn't, one gets the impression that it still would have taken that long for either of them to work up the nerve to touch each other on the lips. Nevertheless, the feeling is always maintained that the two of them always meet clandestinely.

His relationship with Nadia is one of the keys of this movie. The other key is his relationship with Agent Rami, played by Waleed Zuaiter. After torturing Omar and trying to trick him into confessing, Rami is able to blackmail or pressure him with life imprisonment in order to get Omar to work as an informant or as a traitor in order to get Omar's friends or other so-called terrorists arrested.

Not knowing too much about Palestinian culture and politics, there's a lot about what happens that I didn't understand. Yet, I was pulled along by the great performances from all the actors here, and the building tension between Omar and Nadia, as well as Omar and Rami.

The problem is that by the start of this movie Omar has already made the choice, which will ultimately lead to his downfall and at no point do we ever learn why. Whether he's labeled a rebel or a terrorist, we're not allowed to go through a complete journey with Omar. His actions seem to be motivated more by blind nationalism and nothing personal.

It was always funny when Abu-Assad would constantly frame Bakri in shots that have him against these tight, stone buildings in Palestine that have billboards or posters for commercial products advertising comfy and happy people with lives that ironically no one in this movie will ever possess.

Four Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 38 mins.


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