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Lemon Tree - Review

Lemon Tree

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE Israeli-Palestinian conflict is given a very human edge in Eran Riklis’ Lemon Tree, a thought-provoking and strangely inspiring battle of wills between a lonely Palestinian widow and the Israeli Defence Minister.

Riklis shot to international prominence after his last film, The Syrian Bride, was greeted with widespread acclaim and won 18 awards, and his ability to take political themes and give them an extremely personal edge is fully evident here.

Salma (Hiam Abbass) is a Palestinian widow who is forced to stand up against her new neighbour, the Israeli Defence Secretary, when he moves into his new home opposite her lemon grove on the green line border between Israel and the West Bank.

The Israeli forces are quick to declare that Salma’s trees pose a threat to the Minister’s safety and issue orders to uproot them, prompting Salma to enlist the help of a young, idealistic Palestinian lawyer to take the issue to the Israeli Supreme Court.

What she doesn’t count on is the eventual support of Rona Lipaz-Michael (Mira Navon), the Defence Minister’s wife, who is trapped in the new home and in an unhappy life.

At its heart, Lemon Tree is a story of loneliness and failure to communicate that places the plight of two very different women to the fore. The lemon grove aspect was inspired by real accounts that Riklis had read of Palestinians taking the State of Israel to court.

As such, it provides a fascinating alternative insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its effects upon everyday people.

Abbass, in particular, shines as Salma, just as she did in both Riklis’ own Syrian Bride and the more recent American feature, The Visitor. Her anguish and isolation is expertly balanced by the quiet dignity with which she conducts herself, as well as the steely determination to succeed against the odds.

If the conclusion draws things to a somewhat bittersweet resolution, it merely serves to underline the injustices of certain situations, while offering hope that an individual can make a difference, if only on a small scale. As such, this beautifully involving tale carries plenty of resonance for viewers of every nationality.

In Arabic and Hebrew, with subtitles

Certificate: PG
Running time: 106mins
UK Release Date: December 12, 2008