Maysaloun Hamoud’s debut feature, In Between, is enthralling and more than a bit unsettling. It tells the story of three young, independent Palestinian women who share an apartment in Tel Aviv. Hamoud’s script illustrates how their ambitions vary from tradition, and the price each pays for her choices.
Dynamic attorney Leila (Mouna Hawa) shares an apartment with Salma (Sana Jammelieh), a disc jockey. On the surface, they enjoy a freewheeling lifestyle that includes recreational drugs and late-night parties at trendy clubs. Salma’s family believes she is a music teacher; they still invite her for family dinners designed to pair her with a future husband. She adopts a demure manner for these gathering; Salma has never quite been able to tell her family that she is gay.
When observant Muslim Noor (Shaden Kanbaura) takes their extra bedroom, there is palpable tension in the apartment. Noor, an IT student, simply wants a place to stay while she finishes her exams. Her arrogant fiancé Wissam (Henry Andrawes) disapproves of Leila and Salma at first sight. Wissam does not support Noor’s plans to teach after she gets her degree; he thinks her time would be better spent doing housework and taking care of the children they will have.
Leila meets a handsome filmmaker, Ziad (Mahmoud Shalaby), and they fall deeply in love. A chance meeting between Leila and Ziad’s traditional sister ends badly. Leila is furious when Ziad criticizes her for smoking and for wearing sexy clothes. He outlines a list of behaviors she must change in order for their relationship to continue. Leila asks what, in turn, he will change; Ziad falls silent.
Meanwhile, Salma and Noor have new challenges. Salma meets Dunya (Ahlam Canaan) at a bar where she is working. The two make such a connection that Salma determines it is time to come out to her family. Wissam continues to pressure Noor to move from the apartment, calling her a whore for staying there. His behavior toward her becomes threatening.
The performances are strong throughout, but the three female leads are especially noteworthy. In Between pulls you in from the vivid opening credits. Cinematographer Itay Gross does a fabulous job of contrasting the vibrant world of Leila, Salma, and Noor with the more subdued one of the suburbs. M. G. Saad’s original score does a great job of establishing and maintaining the mood.
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