Close to Home

Close to Home

With at least the virtue of novelty on its side, Vidi Bilu and Dalia Hager's debut outing as writer-directors may be the first feature to tackle the claustrophobic world of Israeli women soldiers who work out their mandatory military service patrolling the streets and buses of Jerusalem, a job as tedious as it is dangerous in a divided city vulnerable to Palestinian attacks. Nothing if not detailed, Close to Home follows two conscripts still in their teens — one a born conformist, the other an instinctive rebel — as they write up Arab passersby, goof off for falafels, dance with strangers, protect one another from the ire of scary female officers, and go home to mom and dad. Though it clearly means to call into question the legitimacy and futility of their work, the movie is awkwardly mounted and formlessly episodic as it meanders from one day to the next, finally losing itself in a forest of coming-of-age clichés. Absent a guiding idea, the neatly inserted bomb that makes these two ambivalent friends grow up and grow together feels more like a squib than an incendiary dramatic device. — Ella Taylor

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