I’m having a hard time imagining who would want to see this film. The story is about Alex (Pio Marmai), who works as a drug dealer in Palestine, but wants to move to Israel to help his cousin open a restaurant. Moving to Israel isn’t so simple for Alex since he has to learn to speak Hebrew, and receive a certificate of Jewishness.
It’s unclear why Alex is so committed to moving to Israel. The back of the case tells me that he does it because he’s eager for a new start, but I never got that impression while watching the film. For a while, I assumed he wanted to sell cocaine in Israel because he thought it was a better market. The fresh start angle makes no sense to me because he can pretty much get a fresh start anywhere, doing anything. I can see his need to escape his brother Isaac (Cedric Kahn) being cause to leave the country. Isaac is a lowlife, who is constantly getting into trouble with money and needing Alex to bail him out. He’s an interesting and charming character, but completely two-faced and despicable at the same time. At least Isaac’s motivations make sense to me throughout the film. This is more than I can say for anyone else.
One might also think Alex’s fresh start could come from his new relationship with Jeanne (Adele Haenel), but even though he chooses to pursue her and get involved with her, his plans to leave the country are never swayed at all. Jeanne knows early on that he’s planning to leave and she still gets involved with him, so I can’t say I understand her motivations either.
The film is confusing, convoluted, and much longer than it needs to be. The performances are mostly realistic given what we know about the characters, but it’s difficult to believe a character’s actions when you can’t relate to them at all, or see their significance. There’s nothing thematically interesting about this, and the ending doesn’t even try to satisfy any of the audience’s questions. While not a painfully bad movie to watch, Aliyah doesn’t offer anything new or interesting to help draw us in and keep us entertained.
The real reason to check out this DVD is the short film that is included in the special features. It’s called “The Road to Tel-Aviv” and is about a group of people on a bus, who begin to panic when an Arab woman gets onboard. Things escalate quickly while the bus driver tries to defuse the crowd, who are letting their prejudice make them increasingly more dangerous. Other special features include cast bios, and trailers.
Available now on DVD from Film Movement.