Review: Let It Be Morning Creates a Poignant, Quietly Devastating Story of Home, Family and the Walls that Keep Us Apart
Based on Palestinian-born author Sayed Kashua’s book of the same name, Let It Be Morning tells the story of Sami (Alex Bakri), a Palestinian-born Israeli citizen living in Jerusalem who travels with his wife Mira (Juna Suleiman) and young son back to his home village for his brother Aziz’s (Samer Bisharat) wedding. He believes the worst thing that will happen there is that he will be reminded of where he comes from, and how he’s somewhat ashamed of his humble beginnings, especially in light of how successful he’s become since he left. He’s not an especially nice man—he has a mistress back home and looks down on most of the people he grew up with—but he loves his extended family and lets his elderly father believe that he’ll be moving back home as soon as the new house his father is building for him is completed.
As he attempts to leave town to return home, he discovers that the only road out of the village has been blocked by the local military, who are saying that no one can leave because some sort of mission is taking place. However, it becomes clear the next day that the entire town is locked down because of some supposedly anti-Israeli elements, which the sympathizer militia begins pulling out of the community house by house. Sami is due back at work and is annoyed that not only will he be missing a big presentation he’s supposed to make, but also that they’ve jammed all cell service, so he can’t let his work know of his dilemma. As the days go on, the true scope of the isolation becomes clear as forces build a wall around the entire village, a wall that in many ways represents the barricade that is already around Sami’s heart about his hometown, but one that is beginning to crumble as his anger about the situation takes hold.
Many of his frustrations regarding this Arab village are personified in his relationship with an old friend Abed (Ehab Salami), a divorced taxi driver who pines for his ex-wife who still lives in town. He purchased the taxi (more like a mini-party bus), even though he couldn’t afford it, to impress the ex, and now he’s the town embarrassment on multiple levels. We discover that Sami often ignores Abed’s calls because he’s ashamed to be friends with someone like him, but that doesn’t stop the driver from following him around like a devoted pet. The two renew their friendship as the film goes on, and that restoration mirrors Sami’s feelings about the village, which is under a state of siege, much like he is.
Let It Be Morning comes courtesy of the great Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin (The Band’s Visit), who garnered a bit of controversy at last year’s Cannes Film Festival when his mostly Palestinian cast protested the premiere because the film was submitted as an Israeli production. Despite its somewhat predictable and melodramatic story, the movie also has dashes of humor and social commentary that are fairly bold and quite poignant. A better understanding of the cultural specifics of the region would probably aid in understanding the film completely, but I don’t think it’s required to appreciate what is so good here. Anchored by Bakri’s complex performance, Let It Be Morning finds ways to be both amusing and quietly devastating.
The film is now playing at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema.
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