Even the most cynical of people enjoy heartfelt movies that show the triumph of the human spirit. A Borrowed Identity—a film about a young Palestinian Israeli boy named Eyad struggling to fit into a Jewish boarding school—sends audiences on a powerful emotional journey. Director Eran Riklis creates an engaging world of a boy assimilating to his new surroundings, a struggle most of us also experienced at some point in our lives.
The story focuses on the life of Eyad (played by Razi Gabareen in the beginning of the film when he is a child, then Tawfeek Barhom when he is older). A smart and savvy young boy, Eyad’s intellect destines him for big things when he grows up. Sure enough, he gets a call one day telling him a prestigious Jewish boarding school has accepted him for enrollment. Although hesitant at first due to the underlying disdain existing between Jews and Arabs (like Eyad), he agrees to go in an attempt to further his future success. As he suspected, life at the school proves difficult; he doesn’t speak the language and the cultural differences are overwhelming at first. He does, however, meet a pretty girl named Naomi (Daniel Kitsis) who helps alleviate much of the angst he feels. The two kick it off almost immediately but keep their relationship a secret since he is an Arab and she is a Jew. During this time Eyad also joins his schools community service program and meets Yonatan (Michael Moshonov), and young man stricken with muscular dystrophy and bound to a wheelchair. Yonatan introduces Eyad to rock music, pop culture and gives Eyad a close friend to spend time with. As the movie unfolds and Eyad gets more comfortable in his new surroundings, his relationship with Naomi slowly becomes strained and Yonatan’s muscular dystrophy worsens. Without giving away any major plot points, towards the end of the movie viewers finally find out the meaning behind the film’s title, A Borrowed Identity.
I very much enjoyed the characters and their relationships with one another. Eyad was very convincing as somebody who felt completely lost and alone when he left home for the boarding school. To me, watching a foreign film is more believable than an American film since you don’t recognize any of the actors; it feels like real life. The film gives viewers a compelling look at what it means to live in the Middle East during times of civil unrest; talk of terrorism seems normal, and nobody panics when they hear bombs in the distance. It makes you appreciate living in a country where you don’t have to worry about war suddenly intruding on your life. The soundtrack consists of gentle instrumentals and rock music, a combination that fits perfectly the events that unfold onscreen.
When the audience finally realizes what the title A Borrowed Identity means, it is equally as surprising as it is fulfilling. A Borrowed Identity is a great foreign film that takes the audience on a compelling emotional trek of a young man trying to navigate his life the best he can.
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