Good in parts but meandering overall
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 04/11/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Alila" is a snail-paced series of vignettes about life in one Tel Aviv neighborhood. The film features roughly a half dozen stories playing out simultaneously, most of them focused on a single apartment building and the people who live and work there. Gabi is a young woman who's having an affair with an older married man named Hezi, who has set her up in her own little unit in the complex where he comes to visit her periodically for passionate sexual encounters. The second major plot strand involves Ezra, a building contractor, who is helping to add what may be a possibly illegal wing onto the building. Ezra, who lives in the van he uses for work, has an ex-wife whom he still loves and can't seem to leave alone, as well as a teenaged son who has gone AWOL from the Israeli army because he doesn't believe in the cause for which the military - and, by extension, the nation - is fighting. There are several other plot strands running throughout the film, but these two are the most prominent and, in the second case at least, the most compelling.
If writer/director Amos Gitai had managed to pick up the pace a bit and brought a little more cohesiveness to the narrative, "Alila" might have been an interesting little movie. The tale involving the young boy and his divorced parents is, by far, the most intriguing, and one wishes that Gitai had simply made the film about that storyline and jettisoned the rest. The part dealing with Gabi and Hezi is not only hackneyed and dull, but involves a change of heart on the part of Gabi that is so arbitrary and poorly prepared for that it seems as if large chunks of the film had inadvertently tumbled onto the cutting room floor and been swept out with the trash. One character in the film even has the incisiveness to analogize Gabi's life to the infamously bad soap opera "Back Street" - and how right she is! Apparently the filmmakers were incapable of perceiving and acting upon the astute self-criticism inherent in the comment. The other stories are even more dull and uninteresting - although, mercifully, they take up far less running time than this one. The film touches ever so lightly on such topics as the tensions between Arab and Jew, and the problems of illegal immigrants in the country, but neither issue gets much in-depth analysis from the filmmakers.
The acting is good, especially in the one episode that really counts, but even that isn't enough to pump some badly needed life into the film. "Alila" meanders down its long and monotonous path, only to wind up pretty much where it started at the beginning."