Critics' Pick

In Between (Bar Bahar) (NR)

Drama 103 min. February 2, 2018
By Bilge Ebiri
"Men don't like women who raise their voices," a matriarch says as she waxes a crying, younger woman's legs in the opening scene of Arab-Israeli director Maysaloun Hamoud's In Between. From this we cut immediately to a group of Arab youth in the midst of a throbbing wedding party, the women snorting Ritalin and definitely raising their voices as they toast the end of a friend's singledom. Hamoud's film live somewhere between these extremes -- between tradition and independence, obligation and abandon.

They're in between geographically, too. The film follows three young Palestinian women living together in an apartment in Tel Aviv: Lawyer and party animal Lalia (Mouna Hawa) and DJ/chef/bartender Salma (Sana Jammelieh) are close friends whose tastes and attitudes mostly align, but into their lives comes Nur (Shaden Kanboura), a hijab-wearing, modest student from a conservative family. Her shy, nervous glances at their lifestyle speak not so much to her judgment, but to her curiosity. Together, the trio start to bond in unlikely ways.

In its broad strokes, In Between offers a somewhat predictable set of beats: Nur's dour, Hadith-quoting fiancee, who looks down on Lalia and Salma, quickly turns out to be a repellent fellow. Lalia finds romance with a somewhat more open-minded Muslim man, who proves his shortcomings more slowly and subtly. Salma, meanwhile, learns the limits of her wealthy, liberal Christian family's supposed tolerance. But Hamoud's actresses bring such a sense of authenticity to their roles that this all feels new. These are ordinary women living their ordinary lives, trying to carve out a place for themselves while navigating the expectations of different worlds.
Maysaloun Hamoud Mouna Hawa, Sana Jammelieh, Shaden Kanboura Film Movement

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