Review: Out in the Dark

Out in the Dark

There are plenty of movies about forbidden gay love. In fact, the words "gay love" and "forbidden" are the basis of many movies, but the film Out in the Dark takes this foundation and throws it into the threatening arena of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Forbidden doesn't even begin to describe this gay relationship.

The movie, which made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and is directed by Michael Mayer, introduces us to the too-dreamy-to-be-true duo of Nimer (Nicholas Jacob) and Roy (Michael Aloni). Nimer is an endearing, yet ambitious Palestinian graduate student and Roy is a super-duper idealistic Israeli lawyer. The two meet, fall in love and develop a strong relationship - but there are a couple of issues that come up - mainly for Nimer. For one, Palestinian society isn't exactly keen on homosexuality. Secondly, Israeli society isn't too keen on his nationality. Things get even worse when one of his close friends is found murdered because he was illegally hiding out in Tel Aviv. Things don't look like sunshine and roses for Nimer and Roy.

Without question, a gay romance between a Palestinian and an Israeli is a controversial subject. Mayer (who co-wrote the film with Yael Shafrir) was very ballsy to tackle such a topic. The subject could be considered political, but Mayer tried not to focus on that aspect. In a statement about the movie, Mayer said "It was important for me not to make an 'issue-film', but rather a human drama about love, family, loyalty that is set within a charged reality." That pretty much sums up the film.

Sure, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict adds a generous amount of dramatic girth to the story and the gay romance is strong, but the majority of the movie rests on the character of Nimer. He is earnest and has a boyishly charming face that is a contrast to the dark and dangerous story setting around him. Nicholas Jacob shines quietly as the character - and that's most impressive for a first-time actor. Jacob only auditioned for the role after his girlfriend (who also auditioned for the film) asked if he could. After his read with Aloni, Mayer was impressed and cast him in the crucial role - and it certainly did pay off.

As his first feature film, Mayer has created a piece of work that handles its source material with care and sensitivity. At the same time, the film has this threatening sense of urgency. It's clear that Mayer knows his way around gripping storytelling. The fact that Mayer didn't make this a politically charged gay film is its strength. As said, the movie explores love, rejection, struggle, cultural identity, loyalty and what sacrifices one would go through to fulfill that love with integrity and happiness. Mayer and the cast accomplish this with steady handed storytelling to produce a film thick and heavy with emotion, yet inspiring.