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The Independent Critic

Freida Pinto, Hiam Abbass, Willem Dafoe
Julian Schnabel
Rula Jebreal
Rated R
112 Mins.
The Weinstein Company

  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Making of Miral
  • Julian Schnabel Studio Tour
  • Filmmaker Q&A
  • Feature Commentary w/Director & Producer

 "Miral" Review 
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It's easy to see and admire where director Julian Schnabel is going with Miral, his follow-up to the widely acclaimed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It's also easy to acknowledge that Schnabel just doesn't quite get there.

Miral centers around four women whose lives intersect around the search for hope, justice and reconciliation in a world seemingly devoid of these ideals. The story begins in 1948 Jerusalem when Hindi Husseini (Hiam Abbass) opens an orphanage for refugee that grows quickly. One of the children is 17-year-old Miral (Freida Pinto), a 10-year orphan who is assigned to teach at a refugee camp  where she falls for an activist (Omar Metwally) and is suddenly confronted on whether to fight as those before her or, perhaps, follow the example of Husseini that education is the path to peace.

On a certain level, the aims and intentions of Miral are quite similar to Robert Redford's The Conspirator, a film that is also occasionally bogged down by excessive dialogue and heavy-handed moralizing. Redford, however, is blessed by a stellar cast and an inherently emotional story that overcomes most of the film's lackings. While there's no question that Schnabel has a gift for low action, highly emotionally charged material, the intersecting storylines contained within Miral never quite gel and the excessive wordiness of the script becomes tiring and even a tad irritating. Mark Claywell's current doc American Jihadist is a far more successful flick at taking a look at the questions, issues and definitions that often walk alongside what we might call terrorism.

Miral has the look and feel of decently made cause-oriented cinema of the more derivative kind. It's the kind of film that takes up a cause, but prefers to tell you about the cause in prettier, more artsy and more creative ways. The first half of Miral is arguably the film's strongest, and while Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) is a fine actress and does a good job here it's her character's dominance of the film's latter half that bogs down the film unnecessarily and turns it into something far more derivative. Based upon a novel by Schnabel's girlfriend and the film's writer, Rula Jebreal, Miral too often feels like Schnabel compromised his artistic integrity in favor of keeping his woman happy.

The characters switch between Arabic and English, though there's no particular reason to do so and, at times, it's rather jarring. Eric Gautier's camera work, especially early on, is thought provoking while it's surprisingly moving and visually arresting the way Schnabel an Gautier manage to embody each decade of the film with a uniquely inspired and meaningful appearance.

Miral isn't so much a bad film as it is a film that simply seems to have missed the mark intended by the director. While we get solid proof that Pinto was no one-hit wonder with Slumdog Millionaire, Miral is clearly inferior work for all involved and an indicator that for Schnabel perhaps he shouldn't be mixing business and pleasure.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic