First thing’s first: go see it! It’s on for two more days (until the 4th) at the Barbican cinema and it’s only a fiver if you’re under 26 – the Barbican website does say 14 to 25, but it’s up to and including the 25th year, which I only realised when checking out! If you haven’t done so already, go join Young Barbican: all you need to do is sign up online, it’s free, and all the cinema tickets you book from now until your 26th birthday will magically turn to £5 once in your basket.
[Palestine/France/Israel 2016 Dir Maysaloun Hamoud 106 min | original title: Bar Bahar]
In Between tells the story of three very different women sharing a flat and supporting each other through times of change, and pain. It is a story about female friendship, with a supporting cast of terrible men. The lives of the three Palestinian-Israeli women, Layla (lawyer), Salma (bartender and DJ) and Nour (student) unfolds in and around the flat in central Tel Aviv. The film doesn’t go for the warm, fuzzy feelings. In fact, it goes steadily (at times literally, with one particularly long fixed camera shot that desperately made me want to look away and look on at once) on to and through the hardest times.
I particularly appreciated how non-judgemental the three women were of each other. The film doesn’t go for the cheap melodrama of the hijab-waring Muslim Nour disapproving of her flatmates’ partying and sleeping around, nor do close friends Layla and Salma try to shut the newcomer out. And, though on the outside homophobia causes its share of wreck, inside the friendship group there are no loaded coming out scenes or slow (self-)acceptance journeys: one of them just shows up with a girl as a date (presumably not for the first time) and that’s that.
DJ Salma’s own music is in the background (or sometimes, annoyingly for student Nour, in the foreground) for most of the film, whether the scene is set in a club or Salma has her headphones on, blocking out the world for us spectators as well. There is already a playlist on Spotify, for anyone who ends up liking the music as much as me. And yes, thanks to The Cloud free wifi (which at the Barbican Centre usually works really well), saviour of many a phone bill, I downloaded right on my way out of the cinema and started listening immediately. Do you remember the days when you had to wait for the stores to be open and then go look for the CD… and obviously be disappointed, because the music of an independent Palestianian-Israeli film was not going to be exactly easy to come by?
Fun fact: all Mediterranean people are so hilariously similar, and the whole setting felt incredibly familiar. At one point I saw a piece of furniture my Southern Italian grandparents own an exact copy of, not to mention the whole ambiance.
(Re-reading this post, I am realising how a review that was meant to be somewhat objective still ends up being quite personal, at least in what I focused on. The film is all that, but it is also much more, and much else.)