A wedding guest gets stuck in his home village in Let It Be Morning, the Cannes comedy/drama from Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin, based on a book by Palestinian novelist Sayed Kashua. Showing in the Un Certain Regard section, it stars Alex Bakri as Sami, a married Palestinian who’s attending his younger brother’s wedding in an Arab village in Israel. It’s clear from the off that Sami is bored and can’t wait to escape back to Jerusalem, not least because he’s having an affair. But fate has a different idea: the road back is blocked by soldiers, possibly due to the presence of Palestinians without papers in the village. And so Sami is stuck in a tense town with his wife, son, parents, brother and the childhood friends he’s been trying to avoid all these years.
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Kolirin’s adaptation is a slow-paced film that tackles issues around the Arabic community and cultural divides. There’s a striking scene where Sami offers to help the Palestinians who are being hired to build him a house as they’re being rounded up by the authorities. The man rejects his help — either way, he’s in a kind of prison, he says.
Sami may be briefly jolted out of his comfortable urban existence, but this isn’t a story of a political awakening — it offers no easy answers. Sami’s personal awakening is slightly more pronounced, as he learns to love an old friend he dismissed — though the friend’s fate is a little too predictable. The isolation also forces a confrontation with his wife, Mira (the excellent Juna Suleiman) and a heart-to-heart with his mother. There’s a lovely scene between the two women that involves them silently bonding over music and dance, echoing one the men have shared earlier.
These touching moments are scarce, as is laugh out loud comedy, such as when the doves released at the wedding fail to leave their cages (also foreshadowing the fate of the guests). The humor here is often dry and understated. Gender roles and sexuality are touched upon: both Sami and his brother are avoiding sex with their wives for different reasons, and links are made between male pride and virility. There’s also an intriguing suggestion of repressed homosexuality in the most macho character, and it’s left up to the viewer to decide how true this is.
Let It Be Morning (previously known as Let There Be Morning) may not have the broad appeal of Kolirin’s The Band’s Visit, but it’s a quietly atmospheric piece of work with moments of comedy and pathos.