The Films of Julian Schnabel
Before Night Falls
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
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Miral (July 11/11)
Based on Rula Jebreal's novel, Miral explores the impact that Israel's creation in 1948 has on several Palestinian characters - including Hiam Abbass' Hind, Alexander Siddig's Jamal, and Freida Pinto's title figure. Director Julian Schnabel has infused Miral with a slow-moving sensibility that is, for the most part, offset by the inherently compelling nature of the premise, and there's little doubt that the filmmaker effectively (and immediately) captures the viewer's interest by devoting the movie's opening half hour to the engaging exploits of Abbass' character (ie Hind attempts to open and sustain an orphanage for abandoned Palestinian children). Schnabel's decision to break the film up into sections, each devoted to a different figure, does wreak havoc on the narrative's momentum, however, with the inclusion of a few admittedly striking sequences - eg Ruba Blal's Fatima attempts to plant a bomb in a movie theater - proving effective at smoothing out the erratically-paced atmosphere. The film improves substantially as Pinto's Miral ultimately comes front and center, as the actress' compelling turn is matched by the increasingly intriguing nature of her character's actions (eg Miral begins spending time with a well-known Palestinian resistance fighter). It's only as the fiery, consistently enthralling midsection gives way to an increasingly uneventful (and underwhelming) third act that Miral begins to demonstrably peter out, with the anticlimactic final half hour diminishing the movie's overall impact. The end result is a sporadically engrossing yet thoroughly uneven piece of work that can't help but come off as a disappointment, as Schnabel's previous film, the masterful Diving Bell and the Butterfly, set the bar at a level of excellence that Miral is simply never able to approach.