Review: Three women in Tel Aiv weather culture clashes
Rarely has the clash between tradition and the modern world been shown as cuttingly as in “In Between,” the story of three twentysomething Palestinian women sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv.
Leila (Mouna Hawa) is a young attorney; Salma (Sana Jammalleh) is an aspiring DJ. Each has thrown off their traditional upbringing. They party, drink alcohol, smoke pot, have various piercings and tattoos and lovers.
One hungover morning Noor (Shaden Kanboura) arrives with a suitcase, taking over a cousin’s room in their apartment. Noor is fully traditional, scarf covering her head, a computer science student engaged to the hyper-conservative Wissam (Henry Andrawes), who doesn’t want her to work after they’re married.
Instead of shunning Noor, Leila and Salma let her acclimate to their sinful ways. And eventually Noor loosens up some, dancing with Leila in the living room, even trying a hit of pot. She’s never going to be as cosmopolitan as her roomies, but she accepts them as good people.
Still, they are liberals in a conservative world. Leila falls for a handsome filmmaker, Ziad (Mahmud Shalaby), who’s just moved to Tel Aviv from New York, and they have wild times together. But when it comes to meeting his family, Ziad wants her to dial it down.
“We’re not living in Europe,” he tells her.
She dumps him.
Things get more dire for Salma, a lesbian who brings a lover to her family’s home for a disastrous dinner where her sexual orientation is revealed. Her father orders her under house arrest and threatens to have her committed to an asylum. Apparently that’s a real thing.
Meanwhile Noor, while not getting any tattoos or piercings, drifts, eyes open to a new world and then painfully aware of the hypocrisy of the old.
These are lives on the edge, unsettled and unsettling, caught between now and then. These are also women, all tired of living in a male-dominated world.
Director-writer Maysaloun Hamoud captures their frustration, their energy, their ferocity perfectly. She also fuels the film with a soundtrack of astonishing Arab-influenced techno and pop music, giving the tension between cultures an aural presence.
There are no easy resolutions here, but Hamoud makes clear that these women — troubled though they may be — will stand strong and defiant and together. The world will not break them. Or at least not easily.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.
Running time: 103 minutes