Torn Apart

  • 1990
  • Movie
  • R
  • Drama, Romance

Gentle-hearted and intermittently effective, TORN APART is an Israeli-Arab version of "Romeo and Juliet" that could be called "West Bank Story." Although prettily photographed in pastels and for the most part savvily cast, the film is one of those well-intentioned, narrative-heavy movies that show little evidence of cinematic intelligence, concentrating...read more

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Gentle-hearted and intermittently effective, TORN APART is an Israeli-Arab version of "Romeo and Juliet" that could be called "West Bank Story." Although prettily photographed in pastels and for the most part savvily cast, the film is one of those well-intentioned, narrative-heavy movies

that show little evidence of cinematic intelligence, concentrating all of its energy on presenting a romantic drama with lots of medium shots and cutaways to sunsets. As the film begins, an Israeli soldier, Ben Arnon (Adrian Pasdar), retrieves a letter from a rocky childhood hiding place. He

examines the letter, leading to a flashback detailing his boyhood friendship with an Arab girl. Though their parents are unconventional enough not to discourage the children's feelings, Israeli-Arab friendships are not socially acceptable. While the girl's family is away on vacation, the boy and

his family move to America, and the children are separated, presumably forever. Years pass, and the Arabs become an occupied people under Israeli rule. The story picks up in 1973, when Ben, returning home with idealistic fervor, has become a soldier in the Israeli army. While inspecting Arabs at a

West Bank checkpoint, he encounters his childhood sweetheart, Laila Malek (Cecilia Peck), who is very reluctant to resume their acquaintance. Foolishly, Ben won't take no for an answer, even though Laila's family disapproves of their association. Agreeing to meet Ben, Laila pours out her

resentment of Israelis and takes him to see her professor (Arnon Zadok), who educates Ben about the Arab side of the ongoing conflict. Torn between love and duty, Ben realizes his puppy love has blossomed into the real thing--deep but forbidden. Despite some idyllic moments (when the two work

together at a kibbutz) the couple cannot get their families to accept their friendship, let alone their burgeoning passion. When Ben temporarily deserts his post, his gun is stolen and some Israeli soldiers are wounded--an occurrence that lands him in serious trouble--but while his moral dilemma

grows more complicated, his love cannot be denied. While Ben is admonished by comrades to end the affair, Laila is warned by her family that she might actually be killed for her indiscretion. Eventually Ben's father (Barry Primus) is killed by a mine during the 1973 fighting, causing Ben to turn

away from Laila for a time. But he can't suppress his love, and the star-crossed duo make plans to flee the country. Rejecting his patriotic duty, Ben steals a jeep and picks up Laila, who has nearly been seized by her former suitor, an Arab patriot. The lovers run away, and Laila's professor is

brutally slain by her ex-admirer--who, in turn, is killed by Israeli soldiers. Unfortunately, Ben and Laila's flight is prevented. Separated from Ben the next day--when the funerals of the slain Arabs turn into a melee--Laila is fatally shot by someone in the rioting crowd. Clasping her body to

him, Ben carries her into the Arab settlement. The film ends as it began, with Ben reading the letter he hid in the rocks when he and his Arab love were childhood friends.

Brimming with goodwill toward all mankind, TORN APART has an interesting story to relate, but does so with little urgency. The result is an overly familiar love triangle, the three points being girl, boy, and ideology. Despite all the love-versus-duty conflicts brewing in the story, the film

emerges as a rather placid romance, without the necessary vitality to pump life into its pedestrian dramaturgy. Director Jack Fisher, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker (A GENERATION APART) making his feature debut here, obviously cares deeply for the message implicit in the movie's screenplay,

but the script offers neither memorable dialog nor revelation. You can predict all the plot developments practically from the opening credits, and the movie's sluggish pacing doesn't drive the film forward.

Though pleasant to look at and cast with two attractive leads, TORN APART's preponderance of talking-heads political scenes becomes tiresome, leaving viewers with nothing to do but wonder about the lovers' foolhardiness. No longer swept along by the lovers' passion and frenzy, one begins to ask

some simple questions. Couldn't less drastic travel plans for leaving the country have been arranged? Why does Ben constantly jeopardize his beloved's life--isn't his grand amour a little selfish? Why isn't he jailed for going AWOL? What happens to him after Laila's death? And why is it almost

always the woman who bites the dust at the end of all these ill-fated romance films? (WEST SIDE STORY is an exception.)

Among the large cast, Primus is a standout as the hero's nationalistic father, and Peck (Gregory's daughter, in her film debut) is striking, although the purple passions she is required to enact sometimes threaten to overwhelm her characterization. Charismatic and darkly sensual, Pasdar (NEAR

DARK; VITAL SIGNS) seems headed for major movie stardom; he holds this unexceptional movie together with his magnetic presence. (Sexual situations, profanity, violence, nudity, adult situations.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Gentle-hearted and intermittently effective, TORN APART is an Israeli-Arab version of "Romeo and Juliet" that could be called "West Bank Story." Although prettily photographed in pastels and for the most part savvily cast, the film is one of those well-int… (more)

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