Free Zone (review)

This extraordinary little film — a culture-clash amalgam of modern lawlessness serving as paradoxical social glue, of contemporary feminist can-do spirit, and of crosscultural exploration — opens with Natalie Portman (V for Vendetta) crying her eyes out in the most heartbreaking way in an extended scene that lasts, uncut, for long, uncomfortable minutes. We don’t know why she’s so sad, not at first, but it sets the stage for her odd adventure, as an American in the Middle East, journeying from the relative safety of Jerusalem with cab driver Hanna (Hanna Laslo) into an economic free zone in Jordan where she, Hanna, has business with a shady car dealer, and Portman’s Rebecca is just tagging along, looking rather recklessly for a new start to her life. Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai (September 11) has given us a film of unexpected power and strange tenderness in which the two women, and later a third, find common ground in the particular miseries of women, even those from very different backgrounds and situations. Intimately personal and yet soaringly hopeful in a far broader way, this is a glorious, wondrous film.

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