In "Between Worlds," Maya Gasner plays Bina, an Orthodox woman whose son is injured in a terrorist attack.
In "Between Worlds," Maya Gasner plays Bina, an Orthodox woman whose son is injured in a terrorist attack.

Israeli film ‘Between Worlds’ populates tense hospital tale with disappointing cast

Between Worlds,” a female-centered film from Israel, explores an emotionally volatile situation — people from different worlds who inhabit the same world — with exceptional restraint.

But while it’s a sensitive entreaty for people to embrace their commonalities instead of their differences, writer-director Miya Hatav’s feature debut would have benefited from a bit less control and calculation.

“Between Worlds” made its West Coast premiere on Nov. 8 at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto in the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival.

Hatav succinctly creates a tense sense of mystery early on, as two women rush to the intensive-care wing of a Jerusalem hospital. One is Arab and the other is Jewish, and quickly we are taught a lesson that there’s not much difference between ourselves and “the other.”

One woman arrives at the hospital wanting to see her son, who was seriously injured by a terrorist. The motive and identity of the other woman — who manages to stick around by pretending to be another patient’s kin — isn’t revealed initially, though we suspect her connection to the victim is romantic.

Much of the action in “Between Worlds” is confined to a couple of hospital rooms, heightening the tension until the inevitable moment when secrets are exposed. In the absence of villains, we root for the characters to choose direct experience over ingrained belief, and compassion over prejudice.

“Between Worlds” is a thought-provoking and touching parable. With a stronger cast, it could have been absolutely wrenching.

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Michael Fox

Michael Fox is a longtime film journalist and critic, and a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. He is the curator and host of the CinemaLit film series at the Mechanics’ Institute and teaches documentary classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute programs at U.C. Berkeley and S.F. State. In 2015, the San Francisco Film Society added Fox to Essential SF, its ongoing compendium of the Bay Area film community's most vital figures and institutions.