Tough to follow, and tiring to sit through
Ajami: Rates a C-.
This is one of those rare reviews I’m writing at a time when I’m not sure if the movie will still be in any San Diego theatres. If that’s the case, you can consider this a warning on a rental or Netflix you might have wasted a pick on.
Ajami was Israel’s entry into the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars. There was a lot of buzz regarding this movie. Heck, it was getting 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
So it was with anticipation that I caught it at the La Jolla Landmark. Boy, was I disappointed.
It was interesting seeing the ghettos of Israel. Graffiti on walls – check. Drugs passed threw a hole in the wall – check. Innocent kid working on his jalopy shot dead – check (no spoiler alert needed there, it’s the opening scene).
And most of this I liked more than Traffic or Crash. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen a movie that was subtitled and felt that because of that, I missed a few things.
It got to the point where I was so confused about what was going on. And I don’t get confused easily. When I saw Memento, I was explaining things to a few of my friends that were lost. I didn’t realize they were jumping back and forth in the story until late in the movie. The few scenes near the end that they did that were really interesting. You got a completely different perspective, and saw how easily it is to jump to one conclusion based on only seeing a few things that happened. There just comes a point where you’re overloaded with stuff.
The love story was easy enough to follow. Parents that want their kids marrying someone practicing the same religion. The story of an illegal worker in a restaurant, trying to raise money for his mom's operation, made sense. The stories involving drug deals got confusing.
The most interesting story starts the movie off – a shooting based on revenge, that becomes a domino effect with more and more revenge being sought.
Watching Arabs, Muslims and Christians all trying to deal with their own bigotry was interesting. When a father is trying to comfort his crying daughter, who is forbidden to see a suitor that isn’t Christian – it's done perfectly. The father isn’t just screaming at his daughter. He’s also trying to make her feel better.
And just when you think he might regret his decision towards the man working for him and courting his daughter – he pulls a move that’s awful.
There were times I couldn’t tell the good guys from the bad, and other times that those characters switched, based on us knowing the whole story. And it was these elements that were interesting, and made me want to like this movie more. I was watching peoples lives in Tel Aviv that I’ll never even come close to dealing with.
By the time it was all over, I was worn out.
It’s a movie you don’t have to fret over missing.
On the foreign film scale, it gets a C-.