Proving that Americans aren't expected to tell the difference between an Indian and an Arab, Miral stars beautiful Indian actress Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) as a Palestinian schoolgirl who is drawn into the middle of the conflict between militants and Israelis. Unfortunately, Miral is a lackluster follow-up by Julian Schnabel to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Despite the movie's title, Miral is only a means to outline the conflict Palestinians face every day. The picture is less about her than the issues surrounding her. Simultaneously, it's about the orphanage of Hind Husseini (Hiam Abbass) and her insistence that education outweighs violence.
Miral looks great and features strong performances, especially by Alexander Siddig, who plays Miral's father. But the movie is disjointed to the point where it's not clear what story Schnabel was trying to tell. Miral is at once the main protagonist and a secondary character; she isn't fully developed. Schnabel never lets the audience gets inside her head, keeping the film's most approachable character distant.
The film's synopsis claims the movie is about Hind Husseini's orphanage, but I didn't get that sense while watching the movie. It's not until the closing credits, when the movie explains what happened to Husseini and the orphanage, did I realize that it was supposed to be more than a set piece.
That's a problem.
Basically, Schnabel bit off more than he can chew. Miral is about everything and nothing. Its characters aren't fully realized, its themes lost among the confusion. Schnabel has some good material, but the film's potential never comes into focus.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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