‘When boundless love meets sectarian boundaries’ is by no means the most enticing underpinning narrative; nor does it sound particularly controversial. However, Michael Mayer’s feature debut, Out in the Dark (2012), proves that even the most overplayed melodies of love and war can sing with innovation. Juggling a myriad of political hot potatoes including racism, homosexuality and domestic violence, Mayer transcends through all the capricious clichés grown stagnant through repetition. Instead, this first-time Israeli director turns over a modern day Romeo and Juliet yarn scarred by the truths of geopolitical immorality.
Opting for the provocative itinerary of two gay lovers split by the animosity between their nations, Mayer clearly intends to establish his divisive directorial footing early in his career. If not for the amorous dynamics between his two leads, Nicholas Jacob and Michael Aloni, he may have struggled to shed the melodrama moniker from his skillset. Yet, it’s Jacob and Aloni’s remarkably credible performances that grapple with our pre-emptive pessimism. Aloni, as opulent Jewish lawyer Roy, tenderly toying with fresh-faced Israeli academic Nimr (Jacob) proves irresistible viewing. Their tale of diverting border patrols and overcoming centuries of terrestrial war-ravaged dogmatism becomes positively Bard-like.
What’s more intriguing is the fact that Out in the Dark is not a film solely out to shock through scenes of homosexuality (frankly, Western civilisations should not take any offence to this theme whatsoever). Neither is it a history lesson aimed to alienate through political actualities. The Middle East conflict serves simply as an all-too-real catalyst to the imminence of the lovers’ fate. Instead, Mayer hones in on how two people take siege on the elements to be together. And following Roy and Nimr through their sequestered struggles is a treat to behold.
Developed like a three-part saga, panning from swooning romance to unsympathetically methodical thriller, the films linearity may be paradoxically disjointed for some. And yes, finding love across borders has all the potential to be a downright disastrous concoction. Yet, the believable constraints Jacob and Aloni’s characters carry ultimately save Mayer’s Out in the Dark, making this a solemnly weighty debut.