Out In The Dark
It sounds like the setup for a joke, or for a really bad movie: a well-off Israeli lawyer and a struggling Palestinian student fall in love...
But first time director Michael Mayer’s film, "Out of the Dark," deftly navigates its way around the overt metaphors of its own script. Not a second of this plays as rigidly and allegorically as it sounds. Mayer uses the hook, not as an excuse for portentous lecturing about how we’re all the same; but rather as a set-up for an incredibly lean genre exercise; a thriller that is, at times, brutally tense.
The atmosphere is evident from frame one: Palestinian Nimr hurls himself over a fence into Tel Aviv; elegantly dodging Israeli Security forces and slowly-but-surely making his way to his location: a gay bar. His home state is as prejudiced against his sexuality as Israeli military officers are against Palestinians, after all.
It’s there he meets Roy, a psych student currently studying in the area. They flirt, and it’s pretty sexy; and for a moment; the film almost feels light, frothy. But it’s not long before Roy’s likeminded Arab friend, Mustafa, is discovered in hiding and sent back to the West Bank with fatal results.
The secrets soon pile up: the closet closing off Nimr’s sexuality to his friends and nationalist colleagues begins to erode (much to his chagrin). Nimr’s brother is soon revealed to be responsible for Mustafa’s fate. The relationship strains not only the two men, but also their entire families; the micro (relationship) and macro (international) the conflicts coalescing with not-inconsiderate subtlety.
Mayer’s handheld direction betrays what was likely an incredibly low budget - the camera bobs and shakes as it follows the characters from behind; he adopts the independent character drama house-style - yet he manages to keep the film from feeling too rough-around-the-edges. His sporadic employment of a light score brings the film down-to-earth where many others would elevate it to melodrama, and he again manages to avoid cliché in the third act, ducking away from pat conclusions in favor of something much more open-ended.
The setup may sound like a joke, but the film is anything but.