By Luke Ilott
Dir: Tawfik Abu Wael
Original title: “Tanathur”
Last Days in Jerusalem paints a convincing and stimulating picture of normal human beings and their less-than-normal circumstances, albeit one framed in a humble style.
As a Palestinian couple, Iyad (Ali Badarni) and Nour (Lana Haj Yahia), prepare to leave Jerusalem for Paris, something always holds them back. Iyad’s commitment to his work as a surgeon and Nour’s romance with the theatre provide excuses for their reluctance to depart for a new life together.
Tawfik Abu Wael’s second film’s convincing portrayals of human weakness and self-absorption are packaged in an unadorned style that will leave audiences sympathising with the frustration of the protagonists.
Lana Haj Yahia puts in an impressive performance as Nour, the unfaithful partner whose problems emerge from an apparent dissatisfaction with herself, and Ali Badarni also paints a credible picture of Iyad, a man angered by his wife’s actions but seemingly dependent on their relationship.
Those seeking a portrait of the Middle East or a flavour of life in the Palestinian territories, may be wrong-footed by Wael’s approach to this story of strife in a stagnant relationship. Love, it seems, is the same in Jerusalem as in Paris or anywhere else, and the writer-director does not allow his account of a relationship under stress to be sidetracked by other characters or exotic locations.
Despite good individual performances, however, Last Days in Jerusalem suffers from a somewhat bland style: lines are delivered with too little drama in sets whose basic appearance leaves the audience craving excursions into the beautiful city promised by the film’s title.
However, the intelligent writing holds your interest and brings out the themes of age and the possibility of being at ease with one’s surroundings without being at ease with oneself. Most of all, it is claustrophobia which dominates this production: from the tall border walls topped with barbed wire which frame the opening scenes to the emotional dependency of both main characters, there is a sense that trying to escape is impossible.
It seems that, like Nour’s relaxed single mother (Houda Al Iman), we can only find happiness by learning to live with the hand we have already been dealt.
Watch the trailer below!