Somewhere Between a War Drama and a Road Trip Comedy, Zaytoun Loses Its Steam

Somewhere Between a War Drama and a Road Trip Comedy, <i>Zaytoun</i> Loses Its Steam

For anyone itching to see Stephen Dorff portray an Israeli POW, your opportunity has finally arrived. Zaytoun follows Dorff's Yoni, an Israeli pilot imprisoned by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1982 Beirut. In captivity he befriends Fahed (Abdallah El Akal), a fast-talking 12-year-old refugee and one of the PLO's newly recruited child soldiers. After his father is killed, Fahed frees Yoni in the hopes of a mutually beneficial trip to the Israeli border, Yoni seeking homeland safety and Fahed an unmapped family home to plant one of his father's trees. Alternating abruptly between road-trip comedy and war-through-a-child's-eyes melodrama, the film's tonal inconsistency prevents the story from gelling; Dorff's awful accent may also have something to do with it. The uneven structure portends increasingly arbitrary plot contrivances, as the events that bind the two become less interesting or meaningful even when they're telegraphed. It feels like director Eran Riklis hoped that by throwing everything at the viewer the inherently charged content would ensure emotional engagement. Had he committed to either a straightforward wartime drama or a multi-generational update on the genre, the premise may have been more fully realized. In better circumstances, the friendship between the two characters, conflated with the inevitable father/son dynamic that develops, might operate as a hopeful ideological allegory (Pan's Labyrinth comes to mind). By the end, though, the director's ambivalence is overwhelming, obscuring an important story with undeniable modern parallels.

Location Info


Lincoln Plaza Cinemas

1886 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: West 60s

City Cinemas Village East Cinema

181-189 2nd Ave.
New York, NY 10012

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: Noho


Directed by Eran Riklis
Strand Releasing
Opens September 20, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Village East

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This is a film that touches you in your soul and stays with you, keeping you thinking and feeling. It is a film that hits on something deep within us and pulls our humanity into a situation that is mired in politics but is and should be about people. It reminds us that we are all from the same seed of life and that it is only over time we become people who can hate. This film brings us back to the relationships that we as humans have, and can have, with anyone, across borders and across the lines of war. I can't stop thinking about this movie, but more importantly, I can't stop feeling from this movie.


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