“Love finds its way” is an Arabic proverb that deftly finds its way — literally and figuratively — into the taut, compelling drama “Out in the Dark,” which places a gay-themed romance at the center of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian discord.
A first-time feature helmer, the Israeli-born Michael Mayer (not to be confused with the same-named American theater and film/TV director) ratchets up the tension on its appealing lead characters in believable, heartfelt ways while spinning out an edgy tale fueled by do-or-die sociopolitical intrigue. It’s unique, powerful stuff.
The film, written by Mayer and Yael Shafrir, finds Palestinian psychology student Nimr (Nicholas Jacob) falling in love with forthright, well-connected Israeli lawyer Roy (Michael Aloni). At the same time, Nimr’s extremist brother (Jameel Khouri) is involved in the murder of Nimr’s colorful gay friend Mustafa (Loai Noufi), a suspected collaborator against the Palestinians who’s caught hiding illegally in Tel Aviv.
That Nimr withholds this key information from Roy as pivotal events unfold for both men winds up trapping Nimr in a virtual maze of dead ends. The result is a real nail-biter of a third act. The movie closes on an open-ended beat that may frustrate some but proves a bold choice nonetheless.
Mayer, who handles the film’s action and sensuality with equal finesse, guides Jacob and Aloni to a pair of strong, memorable performances. Ran Aviad’s confident digital cinematography also impresses.
“Out in the Dark”
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. In Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles.
Playing: At Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood.
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