“Between Worlds” Contemplates The Gap Between Arabs And Jewsby Michael Fox January 29, 2018
Israeli writer-director Miya Hatav’s female-centered feature debut, “Between Worlds,” explores an emotionally volatile situation with exceptional restraint. A sensitive entreaty for people from different worlds who inhabit the same world to embrace their commonalities instead of their differences, the film would have benefited from a bit less control and calculation.
Hatav succinctly creates a tense sense of mystery in the opening reel, as two women rush to the intensive-care wing of a Jerusalem hospital. Our initial impression from their clothes and facial features is that one is Jewish and the other is Arab, but it’s actually the other way around.
This clever reversal gently admonishes viewers who leapt to conclusions and establishes the movie’s core theme, namely that there’s not much difference between ourselves and “the other.” Firsthand experience, consequently, could dispel our judgments and suspicions.
The first woman to arrive at the hospital wants to see her son who was seriously injured by a terrorist. The motive and identity of the other, younger woman—who manages to stick around by pretending to be another patient’s kin—isn’t revealed initially, though we suspect her connection to the victim is romantic.
“Between Worlds” refers to the comatose man in the middle, who was estranged from his religious family and living with his girlfriend. It also describes his mother, who became observant when she married but receives little pleasure or comfort from her faith. The title also fits the young woman—the victim’s girlfriend—who made a major sacrifice to be with her Jewish lover.
Most of the action is confined to a couple of hospital rooms, heightening the tension until the inevitable moment when secrets are exposed. In the absence of villains, we root for the characters to choose direct experience over ingrained belief, and compassion over prejudice.
“Between Worlds” is a thought-provoking and touching parable. With a stronger cast, it could have been absolutely wrenching.