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2011-09-08 18:07
What it’s about

Based on an autobiographical novel by Rula Jebreal, Miral attempts to tie together different stories of people living in the troubled and divided place that is Jerusalem. Set against the volatile backdrop of the ruptured Palestine and the fledgling state of Israel, the film tells the story of a nation through the intertwining lives of four women.

What we thought:

Academy award nominated director Julian Schnabel tries his best to craft Miral into a meaningful investigation of the histories and realities of this region and its people, but his success is hampered by stiff acting, a bland and unconvincing script and a story spread out so broadly that it becomes thin and ultimately futile.

Titular character Miral is a young Palestinian girl who grows up amidst and eventually gets caught up in the conflict that surrounds her. Her story is the most prominent of four chapters that also trace the lives of three other women touched by the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Nadia (Yasmine Al Massri) is Miral’s mother, who flees an abusive home only to end up in an Israeli prison, where she meets Fatima (Ruba Blal), serving several life sentences for terrorist activities. Framing  all these stories is the character of Hind Husseini, a generous matriarchal figure who sets up an orphanage for Palestinian children in the war-torn state.

Yet, even likable, admirable characters such as Hind seem constrained due to a script in which most of the characters speak in overarching declarations to constantly remind viewers of the film's subject matter and themes.

Unfortunately the casting is also not doing the film any favours. Frieda Pinto as the radical, rebellious Miral is ultimately disappointing. The Indian beauty is out of place in the brutal Palestinian world as her Indian English accent fumbles the lines of dialogue that are often overacted, fragmented and sterile.  Perhaps this is a symptom of sacrificing characters who speak in the language that fits the milieu in order to make the film more accessible. But essentially it is what’s being said that seems strained on top of the strained delivery.

Schnabel does try to make up for what is lacking in Miral with his characteristic ethereal style of directing. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly director beautifully captures the colour and movement of every scene. But Schnabel’s ambitious efforts are unable to raise the muddled story beyond just that.

Miral aims to be an epic chronicle of human and historical drama spanning more than 20 years, but is unable to carry the weight of the controversial subject matter. Clumsy storytelling combined with flamboyant cinematic technique and two-dimensional characters caught in a web of struggle ultimately baffles rather than illuminates despite the film’s worthy intentions of unveiling an important and tragic history.

Miral aims to capture epic human and historical drama, but is unable to carry the weight of the controversial subject matter.
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