Does Julian Schnabel’s “Miral” deserve all the controversy it’s courted since its American premiere a few months ago? Not really. The story of a Palestinian girl’s actions during the ongoing conflict with Israel, it isn’t important enough of a film to warrant the uproar and denigration. Based on Rula Jebreal’s semi-autobiographical novel, “Miral” is engaging, to be sure, but overall, the film is fairly harmless.
The main point of contention many critics have found with the film is that it is terribly one-sided, but certainly no one ever said that art had to be fair and balanced. For the most part, the film’s Jewish-Israeli characters are portrayed as unsympathetic and vile, but this isn’t their story: it is that of the titular character, portrayed by Freida Pinto of “Slumdog Millionaire,” and her struggles as she is drawn into the first Intifada in the late 1980s.
The film’s strongest asset is its talented cast. Overall, Pinto fails to make much of an impression, but she is extremely lucky to be supported by the routinely phenomenal and wholly underrated Alexander Siddig as her exasperated father, Hiam Abbass as the proprietor of an orphanage for refugees and Omar Metwally as Miral’s love interest. Stella Schnabel, the daughter of the director, is also notable for her portrayal of the film’s sole likable Israeli Jew.
“Miral” perfectly embodies the notion that one person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, and the actions of the PLO members in the film are motivated by noble intentions and vile methods. Activists whose hard-line attitudes against Israel soften are brutally murdered by supposed compatriots, and likewise, the titular character is subject to harsh interrogation methods. Overall, “Miral” isn’t vehemently anti-Israel, but it forms a nice bridge between the two opposing camps. It isn’t consequential to make a huge impression in the world of cinema based on the Intifada, but it is certainly both provocative and enjoyable.
Rating: 2.5/4 stars
Starring: Freida Pinto, Hiam Abbass, Alexander Siddig
Director: Julian Schnabel
MPAA Rating: PG-13