Title: Out in the Dark
Country: Israel, USA
Language: Hebrew, Arabic
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Michael Mayer
Cinematography: Ran Aviad
A formidably engaging queer output from Israel, my second entry into this particular scenario after Haim Tabakman’s EYES WIDE OPEN (2009). OUT IN THE DARK is director Michael Mayer’s debut feature, and he co-writes the script of an arresting drama wrestles with coming-out, domestic conflict, political witch-hunt, social discrimination against homosexuality with appalling atrocity. It touches on many thorny and grim issues of the facts-of-life in the middle east (perceptively chooses Palestine and Israel, the two adjacent foes, for their utter incompatibility in politics and religions, whereas love can conquer these all), tellingly and touchingly eulogises an ode to the true love’s indestructible strength albeit a gloomy future is probably anticipating for the star-crossed lovers Nimr (Jacob), a Palestinian student and Roy (Aloni), a young lawyer from Israel.
A powerful gut-punch followed by a chilling emotional shake is my instant feeling of the uncertain and ambiguous ending, it is abrupt but also perfect, since a self-deceptive happy ending is not likely in any case, at the very end, Roy sacrifices his promise for Nimr’s safety, who is totally entrapped in the menacing reality and has no one to rely on except him, being a stowaway is by far the only way out for Nimr, at least he can survive, as long as he is alive, there is hope for a reunion, this is the optimistic leitmotif “love can always find a way” which strikes as a potent leap of faith for audience.
The unresting and wobbly camerawork intrepidly creates a claustrophobic environment both for the movie’s suffocating tensions and the arousing intimacy, as a first-time project, Mayer has the real knack to organise a compelling story with succinct cuts and minimal elements, also his attention to details is a great trait for this line of work. For instance, in the halfway, when Nimr forfeits his border pass to enter Tel Aviv, he can only communicate with Roy through telephone, after a distressing phone call, the camera gives a close-up to Nimr’s cellphone on the floor, which he leaves behind in anxiety, the close-up certainly suggests the phone is playing a role to the plot, after a verbal dispute with his brother Nabil (Khoury), he heads back but doesn’t pick up the phone. But Mayer hasn’t forgotten it, in the next shot, Roy’s sister Abir (Daw) accidentally reads an SMS from Roy, it sounds quite drab in written form, but during the viewing, it is this acuteness in details makes the narrative work with credibility.
Two gorgeous males play Nimr and Roy, Nicholas Jacob is a non-professional but sympathetically extracts his raw sex appeal and inexorable desperation to the scenes where is needed. Michael Aloni, a pure eye-candy and exudes great force of personality as Roy, the lover-cum-saviour for Nimr, he is the one who can exit with a clean slate, but against all odds, he sticks around and never give up hope, Aloni competently strides onto the top tier in my Supporting Actor category.
So, the film is an outstanding drama evokes soul-searching reverberations for its viewers with a rather mature execution for a debut feature, recommended to all non-prejudiced cinephiles.