It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"The Syrian Bride" takes place at such a remote corner of the Golan Heights that when an Israeli official refers to it as a "military outpost," a Syrian scoffs at its ramshackle guardhouse and token military contingent. This obscure border crossing is crucial, however, to the future of Mona (Clara Khoury), who hopes to cross from Israel into Syria and be married. Her problem is that Syria considers her to already be in Syria, and Israel considers her to be in Israel. How can she cross from a place one side says does not exist to a place the other side says does not exist?
If "The Syrian Bride" seems vaguely familiar, it is because the same actress, Clara Khoury, starred in the 2004 film "Rana's Wedding," playing a bride whose wedding is endangered by red tape at the checkpoint between Jerusalem and the Palestinian settlement of Ramallah. Only in the Middle East does a romantic comedy star specialize in border crossings. Odd, too, that in both cases romance has little to do with it; in "The Syrian Bride," Mona is entering an arranged marriage with a Syrian soap opera star she's never met.
There is a note of gloom in the opening scenes of "The Syrian Bride," because after Mona crosses into Syria, she can never return to Israel, and "will never see her family again." True, she will never see them again by crossing into Israel, but there are such things as airplane flights from both Syria and Israel to perfectly pleasant destinations that will welcome them both, and since the soap opera star can presumably afford the tickets, I was not in tears.
What is real is that these personal lives have become unmanageable because of the political positions of the two nations. Mona gets her passport stamped by the Israelis and then crosses to the Syrian checkpoint, which refuses to accept the passport because it has an Israeli stamp even though, the Syrian says, she has not come from Israel at all, but from Syria. Can she get the stamp whited out? No, because the Israelis require it for her to leave the country.