With its close focus on the relationship between the two main characters and its themes of companionship and unlikely bonds, Zaytoun is not such a different film from the likes of True Grit and Midnight Run.
With its close focus on the relationship between the two main characters
and its themes of companionship and unlikely bonds, Zaytoun is not such a
different film from the likes of True Grit and Midnight Run. These types of films centre around a journey or adventure of some sort
and all of them focus on the gradual development of unusual friendships. Unlike
the latter, though, Zaytoun suffers from some awkward pacing – and as a result
it just misses the mark.
Set in 1982, the film follows Israeli fighter
pilot Yoni (Stephen Dorff) and
Palestinian boy Fahed (Abdallah El Akal)
as they are drawn into a mutual quest to cross the Lebanese border; Yoni wants
to escape back to safe territory, while Fahed yearns to find his old home. The
two start off disliking and distrusting one another, but these feelings are –
predictably – replaced by a growing bond as they are forced to work together.
The story is far from original, but the
well-drawn main characters and their half-amusing, half-moving relationship is
enough to give the film some potential. Its problems arise from its awkward
pacing. Events move rapidly in the first third of the film without really
advancing the story; a whole range of secondary characters are introduced who
end up having little bearing on the action; the film attempts to set the scene
but struggles to find its feet.
The result of this is that Zaytoun’s
all-important Second Act – which sees Yoni and Fahed getting to know each other
on their journey – begins too late, and is over too quickly. It’s a shame, too,
because it’s during this segment that the film really begins to find its pace;
Yoni and Fahed’s companionship is well-handled and well-developed, and the
scenes between them are both imaginative and entertaining. One memorable moment
in which the two have a shooting competition in an abandoned amusement park,
for instance, is both well scripted and incredibly telling of their
relationship. ‘The prize is this dead duck’, says Yoni, indicating a mangy
stuffed toy, but it’s clear that what they’re really playing for is pride and
the respect of the other.
The acting is solid and the film is well
directed, but Zaytoun still has something missing – by broadening its focus and
trying to squeeze in too much, it ends up spreading itself just that bit too