Directed by renowned artist and two-time Oscar nominee Julian Schnabel, who previously helmed "Basquiat," "Before Night Falls" and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "Miral" is based on the novelized diaries of Rula Jebreal, a young Palestinian woman growing up in East Jerusalem in the extremely unsettled 1970s and '80s. To create a cinematic narrative, the story is fractured into four segments, each telling the story of a woman who shaped the life of the central, fourth character, Miral. Miral is played by "Slumdog Millionaire" beauty Freida Pinto, and she is a Palestinian girl brought to a Jerusalem orphanage in the wake of the first Arab-Israeli war who becomes highly politicized, diving headfirst into the First Intifada at the age of 17.
Schnabel's artistic vision is at the fore in all of his film work and "Miral" is no exception. Beautifully shot and lyrically conceived, the painter is an undeniably gifted visual storyteller. Unfortunately, his abilities as a straight forward filmmaker are still lacking.
While each shot of the film unfolds with panache, the film's throughline feels like a broken bone improperly set. Jagged and ungainly, performances range from stiff and awkward (most notably, Schnabel's own daughter, Stella) to heartbreakingly human (Alexander Siddig, best known for his work as Julian Bashir on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine") while the story splinters into unmolded fragments with the only prevailing thematic agenda being an unmasked, markedly anti-Israeli sentiment.
"Miral" is a film better observed for its beauty than story, which presents an extraordinarily one-sided political point of view. All in all, it falls short of the bar Schnabel previously set for himself with "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."
"Miral" is opening in limited release in New York this Friday.