An undisciplined approach to mission and duty
Mirit and Smadar, the two 18-year-old girls in "Close to Home," are uneasy friends. When they aren't smoking, admiring unflattering hats in shop windows, and getting on each other's nerves, they patrol the streets of Jerusalem, arbitrarily registering Arabs as part of their service in the Israeli army. Dalia Hager and Vidi Bilu, this movie's writers and directors, were unhappy with the reality that too many films about the army are told from the men's point of view.
As a corrective, their drama is full of young female soldiers who seem utterly indifferent to the particulars of their duties. It's possible, credible even , that when Mirit (Naama Schendar) abandons her post inspecting bags at a hotel to dance with a stranger, her dereliction of duty is meant as an indictment of military service. But as presented (the music and this man transporting her to cheesy ecstasy), it's one of many examples of the girls' inability to stay on task.
When we meet her, Mirit is a naif who initially wants to be a good soldier. She nearly rats on one of her mentally unstable comrades and is almost officious in her determination to stop Arabs and ask them for identification. Smadar (Smadar Sayar), her somewhat rebellious patrol partner, thinks the profiling they do is bogus. She'd rather sit on a bench and snack. But whenever word comes that their harsh commanding officer (Irit Suki, unconvincingly authoritative but wonderful anyway) is nearby, she snaps to attention.
There are rote snapshots of the girls' personal lives. Mirit lives with her parents. Smadar lives alone but goes shoplifting with a cute guy she's dating. Neither girl possesses a thought, but each is equipped with a big stash of hormones. Mirit's become apparent after a bomb goes off, covering her in someone's blood, leaving her passed out in the street. When she comes to, a gorgeous stranger (a different one!) is standing over her. She spends the rest of the movie discreetly stalking him.
"Close to Home" might be a treatise on whether the army means anything to young Israelis. The movie might be a generational portrait of apolitical, self-interested (female) soldiers. It might also be about the understandable limits of Palestinian tolerance (the filmmakers encourage us to empathize with them). But if we're being honest, this movie just seems like a scattered excuse to make political points without saying much of anything. Worse, it also fails to show us, with any vividness, how Mirit and Smadar think and feel as women.