x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

ADFF review: Miral

Julian Schnabel's take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is visually arresting but fails to gel.

Director: Julian Schnabel

Starring: Hiam Abbass, Freida Pinto, Willem Dafoe

Julian Schnabel as an artist and filmmaker is known for making risky choices, but Miral is brave even by his standards. It's a film with a political message that calls for tolerance and understanding, but it's delivered in a naïve tone that seems overly simplistic.

Schnabel makes it known from the beginning that he wants to educate as well as entertain, although what he delivers is a potted history rather than something insightful or culturally minded. The use of newsreel footage adds to the feeling that we are being given a lecture, and one that is rather limited.

Hiam Abbas gives a sterling performance as the heroine Hind Husseini, although she occasionally struggles with the fact that she has to deliver her lines in English. It seems a strange choice to limit the Arabic dialogue, especially when several actors would be much more assured in their performances delivering dialogue in their mother tongue.

The plot features a rape and failed marriage before the action lands in 1977 when the title character Miral is placed in an orphanage by her father (Alexander Siddig). Miral makes astonishing discoveries about her past, as Schnabel aims to set up an analogy between her life and the state of Israel. It's aesthetically pleasing, as all his films are, but in the end this ambitious work doesn't quite gel.

Screening tomorrow, Emirates Palace, 6.30pm