Thrusting an outsider into the turmoil of the West Bank, the French-Canadian director Anais Barbeau-Lavalette builds a persuasive sensory immediacy in "Inch'Allah," even as her story grows increasingly contrived.
At the center of the drama is Chloe (Evelyne Brochu), a young Quebecois obstetrician working in a Palestinian refugee camp. Her daily crossings between her apartment in Jerusalem and her job are exercises in dislocation, and she never quite comes into focus. In Palestine she grows close to one of her patients (Sabrina Ouazani) and the pregnant woman's brother (Yousef Sweid). At night, she and a neighbor (Sivan Levy), who hates her job as a border checkpoint guard, party hard in Tel Aviv.
There are the expected — and clichéd — warnings from her supervisor (Carlo Brandt) against becoming emotionally involved in her work. But Chloe appears more often at loose ends than at work, frequently hanging out with kids who scrounge through the rubble of war. Sometimes they're looking for usable debris and sometimes they're just playing, pretending to be somewhere else.
Shooting mainly in Jordan, Barbeau-Lavalette and cinematographer Philippe Lavalette (the director's father) create an immersive experience. Amid the chaos and anxiety and the terrorist-sweep crackdowns, there are also unexpected moments of beauty, such as an outdoor performance of exquisitely mournful music.
If the well-played supporting characters embody the Israel-Palestinian conflict in convincing human terms, the protagonist is a less-credible proposition. When "Inch'Allah" shifts into full-throttle calamity, the crisis bears the stamp of an authorial statement, in part because Chloe's inner life never makes itself felt.
MPAA rating: R for language and brief nudity
In Hebrew, Arabic, French and English, with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills; Edwards Westpark 8, Irvine.
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