Saturday, August 29, 2009

Close to Home

Karov La Bayit; Drama, Israel, 2005; D: Varid Bilu, Dalia Hager, S: Smadar Sayar, Naama Schendar, Katia Zinbris, Ami Weinberg, Irit Suki

Jerusalem. The rebellious Smadar works as an IDF soldier at a checkpoint, but hates to browse around private stuff of Arab women trying to pass. She is thus punished by her superior Dubik by having to go to patrol with the new girl, Mirit. Patrolling through the streets, they are quite different - Smadar is extroverted, Mirit is introverted - but after a suicide attack they meet a nice guy. Mirit has a crush on him, but is afraid to approach him. When she dances with one of the guests at a hotel, she is punished by a week in prison. The two of them argue. A man refuses to show them his ID. The crowd attacks him. The two girls ride off on a motorcycle.

One of the rare films that shows the IDF service from the female perspective, "Close to Home" is a neat, realistic, calm and occasionally even humorous and sweet little movie; a one that acts like "Azumanga Daioh" set in the army at times, since it juggles with the theme of girls doing their service at a professional level, but also having their private life, shopping and being interested in guys. The latter tickles the imagination, but doesn't come that well across since the formal army life pushes it mostly in the background. Directors Bilu-Hager craft the film refreshingly feminine and authentic, with the two irresistibly cute heroine Smadar and Mirit (great performances by the two actresses who play them) going through numerous misadventures: in one scene, the clumsy Smadar tries to write down the IDs of two Arabs on the street, but her pen won't write, so they have to borrow their's to her. When Mirit complains that her new boots are "too tight", her superior Dubik tells her to do her job and that the boots will "widen". As Dubik leaves, the two girls cynically comment: "Only your butt will widen!" And especially amusing was the scene where the two of them are secretly following a guy Mirit has a crush on. More of such situations would have been welcomed, since the story is only half-way charming, but it has just enough life and spirit to avoid the grey territory and turn into a satisfying achievement.


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