"I haven't felt my heart in such a long time" - a seemingly throw-away remark common to many films. But in Maysaloun Hamoud's latest feature, such sentiments take on a more desperate meaning.
Hungarian-born Hamoud both directed and wrote In Between, a title that succinctly sums up the predicament of its three central characters; that is, how they are caught in the middle of the treacherous waters of cultural difference that impact their agency as liberated women.
"Maysaloun Hamoud has crafted a thought-provoking triptych of feminine tales that highlight israel's powder-keg of social problems."
The film tells the story of three Palestinian flatmates living in Tel Aviv. Leila (Mouna Hawa) and Salma (Sana Jammelieh) are liberal Palestinian women by comparison to most around them. Their struggle to act true to themselves within a framework of a conservative patriarchal society is ever-present in their periphery.
When Noor (Shaden Kanboura), a conservative Muslim, moves in it highlights their cultural differences but also their commonality as women.
All three women find themselves in separate romantic relationships that challenge issues of sexuality, identity and liberation.
The film wastes no time in stating its stance on gender politics: in the opening scene, Noor waxes her legs as her mother proffers sage advice on how to please her future husband.
The film reaches an uncomfortable turning point with a brutal rape scene - the aftermath being an incredibly raw and emotional sequence of events that cut to the bone.
It's a sequence that highlights Hamoud's ability as an evocative storyteller, a skill on par with The Salesman's Asghar Farhadi. Shot with a social realist sensibility with some clever but economical camera use, cinematographer Itay Gross has done a wonderful job of setting an evocative mood.
Hamoud has crafted a thought-provoking triptych of feminine tales that highlight Israel's powder-keg of social problems. Rather than providing answers, In Between tosses them in the "it's complicated" basket, which I like to think of it as provoking a healing discourse on the subject of women's rights.
Director: Maysaloun Hamoud | Cast: Mouna Hawa, Sana Jammelieh, Shaden Kanboura
Running time: 102 minutes
Rating: R13 | Violence, offensive language, drug use, sexual violence and content that may disturb.