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  • Drama
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Julian Schnabel’s first drama since his exquisite ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ is an unhappy affair that’s heartfelt in purpose but muddled in execution. The film, shot in Israel and Palestine, is an adaptation of Rula Jebreal’s autobiographical novel  – written by the author herself – and spans a period between 1947 and 1994 that encompasses the founding of Israel, the Six Day War, the First Intifada and the Oslo Agreement. Miral (Freida Pinto) is born in 1970s Jerusalem to a troubled young mother and ends up in an orphanage run by Hind Husseini (Hiam Abbass). Later on, this smart, spirited teenager is politicised amid the tension of 1987 and the flourishings of first love. Miral is both Jebreal’s alter ego and one of several women in the film whose suffering or resilience are symbols of female strength in the face of chaos and repression.

And so ‘Miral’ spans the history of a conflict through several personal stories, rather than the one suggested by the title. And that’s the main problem: there are too many viewpoints and Jebreal and Schnabel are loath to let any detail pass, so that emotions give way to exposition and there’s rarely a clear focus. It’s 25 years – 40 minutes of screen time – before we meet Miral, by which time the film has established a fatal baton-passing style as we move between the stories of Husseini, Miral’s mother Nadia, Nadia’s cellmate Fatima and, finally, Miral. You can’t fault the film’s authentic fabric – not least its locations, which offer a sense of re-enactment – and there’s an appropriate, dreamlike quality to the imagery, but ‘Miral’ doesn’t have the vital, searing sense of autobiography that it should.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday December 3 2010
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Julian Schnabel
Cast: Hiam Abbass
Vanessa Redgrave
Willem Dafoe
Yasmine Al Masri
Freida Pinto

Average User Rating

2.5 / 5

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