Zaytoun: movie review

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Lebanon ’82: Fighter jets constantly whiz over the bombed-out neighborhoods, and the local PLO faction trains preteens like Fahed (Abdallah El Akal) in the art of insurgency. Fate, in the form of a downed plane, drops an Israeli Air Force pilot (Stephen Dorff) right into the guerrillas’ laps, which couldn’t make the bitter kid happier. Still, when the POW offers to bring Fahed with him if the boy can help the soldier get back home, the Palestinian starts to see a way out; their journey to the Promised Land leads to a tentative friendship. (Few things are better for intercultural bonding, apparently, than donkey rides, abandoned amusement parks and soccer games, even if the latter is being played in a minefield.)

The fact that the film’s title is an Arabic word for “olive,” as in holding out said branch to your foes, gives you a sense of what Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis (Lemon Tree) is going for: a melodrama with a do-we-all-not-bleed? moral. Nothing could be more laudable, though the movie does itself no favors by adhering to a road-trip-most-traveled narrative and featuring a lead who appears to have learned his accent from an Israeli bouncer working a Beverly Hills nightclub door. (Let’s be charitable and merely say that this is not Dorff’s finest onscreen turn.) Zaytoun wants to milk a historical moment as a plea for tolerance; its only accomplishment is to channel the forgettable foreign-film exotica of decades past.

Follow David Fear on Twitter: @davidlfear

Release details

Duration: 110 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Eran Riklis
Cast: Stephen Dorff
Abdallah El Akal
Ali Suliman
Alice Taglioni
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