Out in the Dark
Claustrophobic drama about a love affair between an Israeli lawyer and a Palestinian student
The handsome lovers of Israeli writer-director Michael Mayer’s debut feature meet one night in a Tel Aviv gay bar. Nimr (Nicholas Jacob) is a Palestinian graduate psychology student, hoping to study for a PhD in America, who hasn’t come out to his own conservative family in the West Bank. Roy (Michael Aloni) is a twentysomething Israeli lawyer, who works in his father’s firm. Their attraction is mutual, yet their burgeoning relationship is jeapordized in multiple ways. Nimr’s militant brother Nabil (Jamil Khoury) is implacably opposed towards anyone he perceives to be collaborating with the Israeli establishment, and Roy’s seemingly liberal parents express their concerns that Nimr may be exploiting their son. And the state security services regard the student as a potential informant, stressing that his travel permits and work visas are at their discretion.
The credibly acted Out in the Dark is more interesting as a character study of forbidden love than when it veers into generic thriller territory, involving Israeli mobsters, burly secret agents and night-time car-chases. In common with many first features, the screenplay feels overloaded with obstacles facing its protagonists: thus not only is Nimr secretly gay and treated by mainstream Israeli society as a second class citizen, but he also has to cope with losing his father aged 12, whilst Nabil is concealing in the family basement a significant cache of arms. Yet Mayer, shooting digitally and primarily using available light sources, does convey a palpable mood of claustrophobia, which gives the desire of the characters to escape abroad a convincing emotional resonance
Limited release from Fri 5 Jul.