The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as much about land as anything else, so it's not surprising—and actually a bit in the yawningly predictable, ripped-from-the-headlines realm—that this movie about the conflict would have at its center a fight over... a tiny piece of land! The tiny piece of land in question: a Palestinian widow's lemon grove that abuts the border with Israel and becomes a symbol of the entire decades-long, completely sad, totally exhausting standoff.
When the new Israeli defense minister moves in across the border from the widow, his security team deems her lemon grove a potential terrorist haven, and a decision is made that the generations-old lemon trees have to be uprooted. By the Israeli Army. On Palestinian territory. Using laws set up for containing the intifadas. This setup at first feels so pat that you almost want to withhold sympathy from the widow, Salma Zidane (Hiam Abbass), and maybe even roll your eyes when it turns out that the defense minister's wife, Mira Navon (Rona Lipaz-Michael), is her Israeli double—also lonely, also attached to the lemon trees, also aghast at the brutal insensitivity of the Israeli security forces. But then you remember that the whole conflict is like this. As a narrative, it never really changes, just recycles the same familiar, tragic tropes.
Anyway, the characters are engaging. Abbass is a study in restrained outrage and mute grief. The skinny Palestinian lawyer she hires to defend her land in Israeli courts, Ziad Daud (Ali Suliman), is an interesting combination of emotional grifter and fiery activist. And the Israelis who are their antagonists are as unhappy in their marriage as they are with having to handle this politically delicate lemon-tree affair.
What are the odds of this ending well for anyone? Isn't that always the question in this conflict?