Agathe Bonitzer as a French-born immigrant to Jerusalem who befriends a Palestinian man in “A Bottle in the Gaza Sea.”
“Tell me about France,” says Naim (Mahmoud Shalaby), a young Palestinian man dodging Israeli missiles in Gaza. “It will make me dream.”
He’s addressing a 17-year-old girl named Tal (Agathe Bonitzer), a French-born immigrant to Jerusalem whom he has never met. Communicating solely by e-mail after Naim, 20, finds a note from Tal washed up in a bottle on the beach, the two begin a search for common ground despite their uncommon circumstances.
Set in 2007 and unfolding over a single year, “A Bottle in the Gaza Sea” (based on a young-adult novel by Valérie Zenatti) is a simplistic but heartfelt engagement with war as experienced by those still growing into their opinions and allegiances.
There’s not much to dream about in Naim’s life: goods languish for hours at blockades, electricity comes and goes, and his widowed mother (an indispensable Hiam Abbas) works long hours at an overflowing hospital. And though Tal may be more materially comfortable, her days are equally dogged by uncertainty and random violence.
Fueled by neither anger nor religious extremism — the director, Thierry Binisti, remains rigidly nonpartisan — “Bottle” is a gentle pairing of youthful idealism and tenacious hope. As Tal tells her father when he questions her enjoyment of music she had previously disdained, “Only idiots never change.” If only it were that simple.