Close To Home

"Good"

Close To Home Review


Two women on the force: One is rebellious and thinks rules are for squares, the other abides by conduct regulations as if they were passed down from Jesus' head office in picturesque Antuckett, Texas. They are the newest recruits to a small faction of the Israeli military, made up entirely of women, and they've just been assigned to duty together. If you're thinking this is the setup to a sequel to 1988's Feds, it's understood, but you're mistaken.

Dalia Hagar and Vidi Bilu's Close to Home has enjoyed (or rather suffered) a long round on the festival circuit and has finally been picked up by indie sharpshooters IFC First Takes. It's not every day that you hear about a female-lead soldier story that looks more like a personal drama. Besides its rather gleeful disinterest in male archetypes, there's a healthy dispassion towards terrorism that is admittedly discomforting but also refreshing.

Smadar (Smadar Sayar) has been taught the ropes by Dana, the most rebellious of the staffers at a border crossing in Jerusalem who gets sent to the brig for allowing women to pass through without getting checked. Mirit (Naama Schendar) is also on hand when Dana gets ousted, but is fresh enough to announce she had nothing to do with the insurrection. As expected, Smadar and Mirit are paired together and take to each other like a ferret and an East Berlin pit viper. Then a terrorist attack almost kills Mirit, sending both into a state of live-and-let-live and eventually into a strong friendship.

Close to Home is at its best when the filmmakers stay on the girls and their training; certain scenes evoke the job-as-ritual meditation of Le Petit Lieutenant. The weaker moments come with Mirit's interest in the man who saved her from the terrorist attack and her constant yearnings for him. Although it's clear that Hagar and Bilu want to show two natural women and two natural women have yearnings for men, there's a false importance given to the relationship since the man was her savior from the attack. It drains her encounters with him of any spontaneity or charm.

Hagar and Bilu build strong characters for their actresses to inhabit, but the narrative has the consistency of a warm bowl of Quaker Oats. The tone of the piece becomes rocky and uneven when the film becomes more interested in Mirit and her newfound love for men. Schendar and Sayar give strikingly natural performances, nuances and all, which gives their relationship a fascinating candor. Certain scenes nail the idea of femininity in the workplace (eg. when the girls catch their commanding officer coming out from a quick nooner while on duty). These moments, however, are not consistent enough for Hagar and Bilu to truly give an honest perspective on females in the workplace and especially the military (though thankfully nobody shaves their head and sticks "G.I." in front of their name). Close to Home's femininity is sincere and powerful, but its essence gets lost in the film's striving for a "message."

Aka Karov La Bayit.

Does this bus go to the DMZ?



Close To Home

Facts and Figures

Run time: 60 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 4th October 2005

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Dalia Hagar, Vidi Bilu

Producer: Itai Tamir, Marek Rozenbaum

Starring: Smadar Sayar as Smadar, Naama Schendar as Mirit, Katia Zinbris as Mirit's Mother, Ami Weinberg as Mirit's Father

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