Turning an eternal conflict over land, religion and politics into a touching story about personal identity, Lorraine Levy’s drama centers on two Middle Eastern teens—one raised as an Israeli (Jules Sitruk) and the other as a Palestinian (Mehdi Dehbi)—who discover that they were switched at birth. When the truth is finally revealed, the two young men and their respective families try to come to terms with their exceedingly complicated new domestic reality. It’s the ultimate test of nature versus nurture: Will the boys decide to keep their old lives, or abandon them for new ones?
The setup suggests a recipe for pure schmaltz—or whatever the Arabic word is for spreadable chicken fat—and occasionally, in the hands of director and cowriter Levy, that’s exactly what it becomes. But the cast’s performances are so gut-wrenching (particularly from Emmanuelle Devos and Areen Omari as the boys’ equally empathic mothers) that the film’s hopeful message and abundance of heart prove impossible to resist. Levy’s scenario is essentially a microcosm of the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which past mistakes result in an awkward, uncomfortable present for innocent people on both sides of the fence. Her suggested solution can be found in the teens’ reaction to their plight: to find common ground, work together and form a new collective identity.
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