The first five minutes of Close to Home are arresting: A middle-aged woman, head covered in a scarf, is seen in close-up, as her handbag and then her person are inspected by a pair of female soldiers inside a claustrophobic booth at a Jerusalem border crossing. The awful intimacy of the moment is palpable.
Close to Home is about two 18-year-old Israeli girls, headstrong Smadar (Sayar) and soft-spoken Mirit (Schendar), serving their compulsory military service and routinely ordered to conduct such inspections, or to roam the streets checking the identity cards of every Palestinian they encounter. Smadar detests the tedium of their assignment, while Mirit meekly accepts it, though neither is inclined to frame a political argument for or against. Smadar is openly hostile toward her comrade, too, but the experience of a suicide bombing—which probably could not have been prevented by their desultory patrols—establishes a cautious bond between the two.
Regrettably, this somewhat slack film is rarely as charged and taut as that opening scene. (Even the bombing registers few aftershocks.) Though the subject matter is original, and these young soldiers portrayed with great sympathy, Close to Home would have benefited from more disciplined storytelling. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Tom Beer