Ajami 2009 ★★½

Utilising a disjointed narrative that both jumps back and forth in time and uses shifting perspectives, Ajami recalls the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros). Yet whilst this does provide the film with a sense of urgency and captures the tensions and uneasy relationships between a mix of religions it also obfuscates a very simple plot where characters are not quite as richly realised as they should be.

Set in Jaffa, Israel, the film is, at its simplest, the story of two teens in desperate need of money and who get in way over their heads. From this start point everything revolves as we flashback to before the event as well as exploring the lives of all those involved. Here we see a city where tensions between Arabs, Jews and Christians are rife and where moral ambiguity is the norm. Whilst the film does a good job of capturing the energy and flavour of the city (how accurate its portrayal is I do not know) the narrative trickery ends up being little more than a gimmick. It is a device we’ve seen time and again in the past 10+ years and it very rarely adds anything to the film other than clouding a story that, told traditionally, probably wouldn’t sustain a film. At least the film is well shot with strong performances but there needed to be more meat to the story.

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