I don’t think I’ve seen a film so refreshingly vibrant that it is difficult to believe that I spent just fifteen minutes or so with the characters. Emily Shir Segal, the director, is able to achieve a level of affection in her world which doesn’t require much to have empathy for. The struggle in ‘Tonight’ (Halayla) is internal on the way the two lovers are perceived by the world around them. But it is also about these two different individuals who have different ideas about acceptance.
Tonight is screening at the Slovak Queer Film Festival
In a country like Israel, Tom and Omer are two lovers who do not seem to have a constant restriction of religious norms. They seem carefree and pretty clear about their love for one another. But the kiss, in the beginning, remains to be in a sexual context where their attraction appears physical. And even when they seem devoted to whom they knew one another to be, they were pretty unclear about how their relationship is perceived in the social spectrum.
They meet at a place distant from their bustling civilization. In that quiet milieu, Tom comes in a car hesitant to get out, into a surrounding which seems out of her peripheral. But she gets out to actually interacting with these rap-obsessed nobodies. A form of music which initiated from the dire need to express individual voices that are generally not heard, these guys were spitting verses about the reality unknown to them. Their fake enthusiasm bothers her and later on, the narrative spirals around the same authenticity being in question with their same-sex relationship.
It speaks about the dire need as a human to ‘fit in’ some kind of social group. Every action being a result of that, Tom and Omer’s chemistry dynamic fluctuates and bends to reach a realization of their identity in a bigger picture. For the means of being accepted, is being ridiculed really worth all the anxiety? The pandering on this very theme is achieved coherently by the director in a way that not even a single note feels off from this narrative. While the cinematographer Naomi Meroz achieves a warmth with the extreme close-ups of these two, juxtaposing with the other males (and their gaze) by showing their entire body language. Be it the awkwardness, a moment of breathlessness or a firm stance derived from self-awareness, it’s a wonder how everything is achieved with vibrancy and subtlety at the same time.
Of course, aside from these aspects, the performances stand out in ‘Tonight’ to bring out every little nuance, especially a brilliant lead by Tamar Amit-Joseph who needs to do very little to convince any emotion that she’s going through. Paired with Mika Tzur, their chemistry flourishes with the required subtlety implied through their facial expressions. And while the bokeh brings out their emotional distance from the outside world, it’s also Yuval Barak’s editing that doesn’t break the liveliness of the long scenes and interrupts only at the moments where it is crucial to do so.
And at the end of this tour de force, it’s the energetic beats pulsated with that crescendo that stays with you with a tinge of poignancy. Perhaps ‘tonight’ is just the beginning for them and it just gives a tremendous amount of hope in hindsight.