THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Inch'Allah is the story of a Canadian doctor named Chloe (Evelyne Brochu) who treats pregnant women in a West Bank refugee camp. Every day, she must pass through checkpoints to get from Ramallah to Jerusalem and back. Her friend Ava (Sivan Levy) is a guard at one of those checkpoints, but Chloe also becomes close to one of her patients, Rand (Sabrina Ouazani). Her loyalties divided, she attempts to straddle both sides of the dividing line, only to realize that the situation is too large for her to navigate, despite her best efforts.
Inch'Allah, which screened at both the Berlin and Toronto film festivals, definitely deals with some serious subject matter, and certain scenes are quite provocative. You can't help but reflect on the tensions occurring in this part of the world and how they affect the lives of ordinary people. A moment in the movie's third act ranks as one of the most tragic I've ever seen; this dramatic sequence in particular demonstrates the occasionally devastating cost of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is also a technical proficiency to the film. Director Anais Barbeau-Lavalette shoots for, and achieves, a documentary-like feel. This is especially effective in small moments that capture the sorrowful day-to-day realities the characters face, such as when Rand rummages through a landfill looking for toys for her child. Similarly, the cast members, particularly Evelyne Brochu, give naturalistic performances that make you forget you're watching actors.
At the same time, Inch'Allah never quite works up the sense of power it is clearly aiming for. It does dramatize elements of Israeli-Palestinian conflict well, yet doesn't really have anything new to say about them. We already know it's tense over there. The film, in a seeming attempt to avoid melodrama, also underplays Chloe's journey; this gives the story an often sluggish feel. The last 25 minutes do pick up steam, but prior to that, there are plenty of spots where a little more overt drama would have been welcome. The film’s final moments, which should be emotionally devastating, are instead a little flat.
In the end, Inch’Allah is a film I admired more than liked. It is sincere, earnest, and well-intentioned. It’s also just a little too slowly paced to maximize the impact of those qualities.
( out of four)
Inch'Allah is rated R for language and brief nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 42 minutes.
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