It’s a no-brainer why this crowd-pleasing romantic thriller, the latest example of suicide-bomber cinema, was nominated for seven Israeli Academy Awards. It allows audiences to congratulate themselves for acknowledging deep-seated complexities without the burden of actually grappling with them.
Driven to Tel Aviv and armed with a vest full of dynamite, Tarek (Jabarin), a young Palestinian Arab has explicit orders to martyr himself in the Carmel Market. But when the bustling Saturday morning arrives, his trigger button malfunctions. His antsy handlers can remotely spark him up via cell phone, but Tarek convinces them to hold off while he gets one of his enemies—a kindly old electrician named Katz (Vishinsky)—to unwittingly repair his detonator. Running the kiosk across the street is Keren (Yalon), an Orthodox-raised beauty who is ostracized for her dyed hair and tight clothing. Suddenly, there’s a love connection, while the clock silently ticks down. Oh, the tragic irony of it all.
Too on-the-nose to resonate past the end credits, this slickly produced film still deserves praise for being progressive-minded, as Tarek isn’t a hateful man but a product of his circumstances who is only trying to help his family. It’s frustrating to see such a humane movie suffer from oversimplification.