Free Zone
Don’t give me that look … I’m sorry, okay?

Theatrical Release Date: 06/09/2005 (Israel), 04/07/2006 (USA)
Director: Amos Gitai
Cast: Natalie Portman, Hana Laszlo, Hiam Abbass

“Free Zone” is a little film that never seemed to gain any attention and, truth be told, if it weren’t for Natalie Portman, I would never have given it the time of day. But since she occasionally haunts my dreams, I figured I’d check it out.

The basic story is that Portman’s character is an American Jew living in Israel until she has a falling out with her boyfriend (or more to the point, a falling out with his mother) and she hops in a cab to get the hell out of Dodge.

The film opens with somewhere around 8 minutes of Portman sitting in the back of the cab sobbing while music plays. Yes, nearly 8 minutes of nothing else happening.

This was interesting for the first few minutes but I often wondered at what point it would switch to a new view and I started to wonder if this was a short film and if I was going to see anything else.

But then Portman tells the driver (Laszlo) to get going and off they head for the border.

Along their journey, they cross paths with a woman (Abbass) who owes Laszlo’s husband money and through an unfortunate and contrived circumstance, the three women end up on the trip together, learning about one another and arguing the state of Middle East tensions throughout.

I found most of the dialogue in “Free Zone” to be trite and this is clearly the director’s views about the Middle East and little else.

The performances by all three women are strong and it is their strength of character that kept me from becoming totally disinterested (and Portman is kinda cute).

I’m not really sure who I’d recommend this film to, however. I suppose if you have a vested interest in the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic, you might find the film interesting. Of course, you may also hate the film because it doesn’t seem to really do anything. It’s little more than one person’s take on things.

I have to give “Free Zone” a 2 out of 5. I was bored and this felt like a short film stretched far too thin. Still, the performances are excellent so it’s not a total loss. If you’re looking for something more political than entertaining, maybe this will fill your hunger. More likely, it won’t.