If Shakespeare had sought to write of star-crossed lovers today he might boldly have chosen a tale of woe like that of Nimr and Roy. Out in the Dark bears touching witness to the tentative dance of a brand new relationship and to a bond stretched taut across a volatile divide. Not the well-thumbed legend of Romeo and Juliet perhaps, but the reimagined story of a contemporary Mercutio and Tybalt – political, dynamic, passionate and devastating.
Roy (Michael Aloni) is a beautiful careless playboy, working as a lawyer for the family firm, emboldened by the cushion of ignorance that his father’s money provides. Nimr (Nicholas Jacob) is a student of psychology with his eyes firmly fixed on an horizon and a future far from the fear and dishonesty of his daily life. When they meet in a Tel Aviv club their connection is instant, their attraction absolute. Despite his misgivings, sweet-natured Nimr cannot keep himself from Roy’s side and a deeper bond quickly forms between them.
Nimr’s friend from home Mustafa (Loai Noufi) finds it hilarious to see the serious, family-orientated boy from his home town fall so hard and fast for a pretty city boy. Mustafa’s circle of eccentrics and misfits embrace the new couple and, for a time, life is sweet. But Nimr is Palestinian – rejected by Israeli society for his nationality and closely scrutinised by its security forces for his political ideals. The world Roy inhabits is a deceptively cosmopolitan one – the dangers of his risqué romantic liaison rose-tinted by arrogance and naïveté. He sincerely believes that privilege and connections can overcome old-fashioned thinking, but he doesn’t have a curfew to observe.
Nimr’s short bus journey back to the West Bank might as well be a voyage back through time. The easy companionship and sexual honesty he enjoys in the bars of Tel Aviv exchanged for the absolute adherence to respect and honour his Palestinian family demand. Already uneasy about Nimr’s studies in the city, elder brother Nabil’s watchfulness has become predatory since the return of a flamboyant friend to their side of the divide, and soon the young idealist risks losing more than his new relationship to the conflict.
Exclusive Clip from Out in the Dark
Michael Mayer’s Out in the Dark is an intelligent, pulse-quickening thriller with a tender love story at its core. Not a ‘gay love story’ but a story about love that anyone who has ever been in love will feel and understand. The young leads –Jacob and Aloni – lend awkward beauty to the early meetings between Nimr and Roy, imbuing the lovers with a nervous energy that ignites their clumsy chemistry. Their first night together is played with such sweet, gentle sensuality that one develops a warm affinity for the couple which holds fast through the upheaval and mistrust in their future.
Jacob had no acting background when he came to the role of Nimr and his raw, emotional responses to the implosion of Nimr’s life is bound to resonate greatly with the audience. By contrast, Aloni’s polished performance and matinee idol charm are absolutely suited to Roy. The talented pair were undoubtedly cast for the lead roles for their undeniable chemistry with one another, and their endearing romance really is the beating heart of this clever picture. Alon Pdut, as Israeli security officer Gil, also impresses by virtue of his unflinching vehemence – giving personality to a reliable thriller staple without undermining his menace.
With much of the film necessarily devoted to Nimr’s flight, this is nevertheless an intimate and immersive drama. Practical light sources were used to maintain realism and framing kept tight. While this does underscore the sense of claustrophobia it does also reduce Out in the Dark’s cinematic sensibility somewhat, and the result is something closer to a quality television drama. But good storytelling is good storytelling and, as the credits roll, it certainly feels like a shame not to be following Roy and Nimr’s tale further. If that isn’t a sign of a jolly good film, then what is.