A Bottle In The Gaza Sea is a 2011 movie based on a novel of the same name and starring French actress Agathe Bonitzer and Palestinian actor Mahmoud Shalaby. I am really glad I decided to watch this movie. It was a pleasant surprise and an interesting movie-watching experience.
I will say from the start, if you think you can guess the plot of this story, you’ll find yourself surprised. You might get one or two things right but it keeps the viewer really engrossed right up until the ending which combined both realism and symbolism. Don’t worry, I’m not giving that away.
This is a very well written script even though it is a take on an old plot formula. Don’t fret, in this movie it shows no age. A French immigrant teen in Israel (and there is a growing French community there) sends a message in a bottle to Gaza. Someone replies – though maybe not how you might first expect – and over time a friendship ensues and takes root. I kept thinking of the old movie with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft, 84 Charing Cross Road, where a lady strikes up a friendship with an owner of a bookstore via postal mail as she orders books.
If you think this movie might have a political agenda don’t worry – outside of the John Lennon mantra of Give Peace A Chance, it doesn’t. The real message is that we’re all human and we share both good and bad emotions whether we admit it or not. This movie shows the good and bad of both sides, at the hands of both sides. It did a really wonderful job of showing everyday life, from how studies are carried out to home life, in both Israel and Gaza. You do walk away with some sense of what prompts the feelings of both sides. But honestly, in the end, a viewer is caught up with the ups and downs of this internet relationship.
I’ve never seen a movie with Agathe Bonitzer before but she clearly has some acting skills (both her parents are directors) and more importantly, she has that “it” factor in front of the camera and my guess is also when she enters a room. She does a good job in this movie.
Just as importantly so does Mahmoud Shalaby who I did see in Jaffa. He had a much better script to work with here and falls comfortably into his role convincingly carrying several key moments.
For a glimpse of Gaza and Israel check this movie out. It is streaming on Netflix. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.