Year:  2021

Director:  Ameer Fakher Eldin

Rated:  15+

Release:  November 2 - 20, 2022

Running time: 113 minutes

Worth: $13.50
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Cast:
Ashraf Barhom, Ezat Abu-Jabal, Mohammad Bakri, Hitham Omari, Amal Kais

Intro:
… there’s palpable tragedy in The Stranger’s specifics and Adnan’s mission to do good… the ability for audiences to engage will come down to a tolerance for slower storytelling …

Adnan (Ashraf Barhom) is a man barely hanging on. His father cast him out of his will as a child, his wife and daughter live in paradoxical distant proximity to him, the Israeli forces in occupied Golan Heights treat him with disregard, and his reputation as a drunkard puts him at odds even with the locals of his village. He is, in many ways, a stranger in his own home.

Of course, he is not the man who bears that title officially in the film itself. That goes to Ezat Abu-Jabal as an Israeli soldier who Adnan has a chance encounter with. While everyone else is busy hypothesizing about whose side he’s on before they make any attempt to help him, Adnan puts his medical training to use and assists him. In this man that he is being pressured to consider an enemy, he finds a kindred spirit in someone also trying to find their home again.

While the cultural specifics of the story are rooted in the historical conflict of the area, the film includes numerous nods to Russia. Adnan is said to have initially trained in Moscow, before a mysterious event caused him to retreat inside the bottle; there’s a namedrop for Russian rocker Viktor Tsoi; there are nods to Tarkovsky – like Nostalgia, our main character is driven by a profound longing for home, and like Stalker, his need for escape is tempered by his connection to the land itself, echoed by a recurring image of a stationary cow behind an open paddock gate.

As an examination of a man trying to reconnect with his natural home, DP Niklas Lindschau’s gorgeous long takes do a lot to anchor the audience to Adnan’s plight. However, its artistic cues also come with a recognisably Russian approach to pacing, which initially works well in highlighting Adnan’s isolation but belabors the point. After a while, it feels self-indulgent, and ends up adding the audience to the lengthy list of people that Adnan is straining to find a connection with.

As a character piece, there’s palpable tragedy in The Stranger’s specifics and Adnan’s mission to do good. But the ability for audiences to engage will come down to a tolerance for slower storytelling; the reliance on murmurs and stationary shots are likely to wear down less patient viewers.

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