From filmmaker Elia Suleiman comes this frustratingly uneven drama revolving around the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, with the emphasis placed on one Palestinian family’s ongoing efforts at coping with the change. There’s little doubt that The Time That Remains gets off to a decidedly underwhelming start, as writer/director Suleiman kicks off the proceedings with a series of surreal sequences that effectively hold the viewer at arm’s length – with the uninvolving atmosphere compounded by the initial absence of both plot and compelling characters. It’s not until Suleiman narrows his focus to the aforementioned family that the film starts to improve, as the filmmaker offers up an impressively engaging protagonist (Saleh Bakri’s Fuad) and, at the outset, places him within the context of several striking episodes (eg Fuad is kidnapped by soldiers and beaten after refusing to divulge the location of his weapons). Suleiman’s decision to eschew a linear plot in favor of stand-alone vignettes does result in an exceedingly uneven feel, however, with the overly lighthearted midsection proving instrumental in triggering the film’s downfall. (It certainly doesn’t help that Suleiman’s various efforts at eliciting laughs from the viewer fall completely and utterly flat.) By the time the tedious, frustratingly abstract final third rolls around, The Time That Remains has unquestionably established itself as a missed opportunity of nigh epic proportions – as Suleiman’s aggressively deadpan sensibilities drain the proceedings of their impact on an increasingly pronounced basis.
** out of ****