It’s said that everyone has a story worth telling, yet most people’s stories never get told. Even in 2018, too few of us receive the privilege of seeing our stories on screen. Sure, Greta Gerwig recently received an Oscar nomination for Best Director, but the majority of movies don’t pass The Bechdel Test, and people of colour receive fewer speaking roles than white actors. That’s why it’s so gratifying to see a film about people whose stories you likely haven’t seen before: Palestinian feminists living in Tel Aviv.
Maysaloun Hamoud’s new film, In Between is about a lot of things; it tackles issues of race, gender, sexuality and family conflict. But most of all, it’s about the transcendent power of female friendship.
In Between follows three very different Palestinian women living in Tel Aviv. All in their twenties, the film’s protagonists are in the “in between” time (hence the title) where they’ve left childhood but haven’t figured out what their adulthood should look like.
Laila is a lawyer, and a bold party girl who enjoys flirting with her opposing counsel, while lesbian bartender Salma keeps her sexuality hidden from her socially conservative family. The two women are long-time friends and roommates who enjoy a lifestyle heavy on drugs and dance parties and a wardrobe replete with sassy tank tops. Little do these young ladies know, their lives are about to change in dramatically. Enter Noor, a shy computer science student from out of town who happens to be their new flatmate.
At first, the film feels a bit like a fish-out-of-water narrative. Noor prefers to dress more traditionally than her roommates, donning dresses and a hijab. She’s less interested in casual drinking than the other girls, and she’s way more into cleaning the apartment. Noor isn’t into dating either; she’s recently engaged to a wealthy young man from her hometown, and she has the rock to prove it.
Despite their lifestyle differences, however, these three young women become dear friends. But the best part of their friendship is this: no one needs to change in order for their relationship to form. A lesser film might feature a cliché makeover scene where Noor goes shopping for mini skirts and learns to smoke cigarettes like a Tel Aviv sophisticate. Thankfully, In Between is not a lesser movie; these characters learn to embrace each other–and their differences–in a most heartwarming and heartfelt way.
As the film progresses, the roommates have their share of realistic conflicts over loud music or messy bathrooms, but what feels most real is how these women support one another. When a horrific act of gendered violence is committed in their apartment, they rally in a way that feels authentic to any woman who’s ever had a best friend. I would advise bringing Kleenex, because their ironclad bond moved me to tears.
In Between isn’t a didactic bore about how Noor needs to be more like her friends to be happy. It doesn’t suggest she should remove her hijab and drink copious amounts of booze in order to prove she’s a liberated woman, nor does it condescendingly contend Laila and Salma would be happier if they gave up partying and bought more modest clothing. Instead, In Between explores each character’s unique journey. That sort of respect for women’s choices is something we rarely see on screen.
So grab your best girlfriends and take them to see In Between. It’s the sort of empowering motion picture that is so needed in our world.