Lemon Tree (2009)

When I was just a lad of ten, my father said to me,
“Come here and take a lesson from the lovely lemon tree.”
“Don’t put your faith in love, my boy”, my father said to me,
“I fear you’ll find that love is like the lovely lemon tree.”
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
The opening of this movie, with a Peter, Paul, and Mary song sung in a plaintiff voice, is a haunting beginning to a haunting film. The movie tells a small story in a beautiful and balanced way that shines a light on the bigger Israeli-Palestinian problem. There is a plea for women to rule nations for a more peaceful world embedded within this film.

I have been slowly but surely falling in love with Israeli films–the intensity of life there, where man has lived in conflict for several thousand years, is sympathetically portrayed time and time again. Yet even in that atmosphere, this is a memorable movie. The movie is directed by Eran Riklis, whose 2004 movie, “The Syrian Bride,” explored Israeli-Arab border tensions in a deeply moving way–non-judgmental and yet the conclusion was clear. This is also a wrenching, richly layered feminist allegory as well as a geopolitical one. Salma Zidane (Hiam Abbass) is a Palestinian woman whose history has put her in the wrong place at the wrong time–Navon, the Israeli Defense minister movies in next door and her life is changed forever. The movie is summarized nicely in the New York Times review (to go to link, click on title), and the details of the story are well told. But the mournfulness of women, who live with what powerful men have wrought (and perpetuate) is part of the story that is not so much told as etched out in the faces of Salma and Navon’s wife, Mira. I would rather that they be in charge of solving the dilemma than the men who feel it is their job to do so. The futility, the short range answers that complicate long term solutions, and the inevitability of people perpetually doing the wrong thing for the right reasons sadly plays out to the predictable ending. And you will not easily forget it.

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Filed under Drama, Movie Review

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