Meteor Street (2016)
At the center of French filmmaker Aline Fischer's debut narrative feature is Mohammed, an 18-year-old Palestinian living in Berlin with his troublesome older brother Lakhdar. Their parents have been deported to war-torn Lebanon, the memories of which return to Mohammed as he struggles to survive in the city, helping out at a motorcycle garage and hoping to be employed. They live in a small apartment with two dogs — their relationship emphasized in particular moments of intimacy and edginess — and this cramped space reflects their isolation and difficulties as immigrants unable to fit in, both of whom have contrasting ways of dealing with their situation. Lakhdar is loud, crass, and violent, rather conscious of being a minority; while Mohammed is often quiet and brooding, pensive and vulnerable, day after day learning to steel himself against the harshness of living in an unfriendly foreign land. The film takes sudden turns when Mohammed gives in and loses his cool and patience; and as a young man determined to prove his worth, somehow this only feels natural and important.
Despite a slim storyline, Meteor Street leaves a notable impression because of its strongly characterized lead character. Hussein Eliraqui plays Mohammed with remarkable naiveté, with Fischer filling the screen with close-ups of Eliraqui's face and body, showing him in angles that further highlight his mentality and innocence. This intimacy allows the audience to understand him better and feel for his plight, especially upon seeing his efforts to help his brother and reach out to his father, both ending up futile; and his decision to leave Berlin, though saddening, does not in any way seem unwise. Fischer's background in documentary filmmaking lends Meteor Street a wistful air that comes from the keen emphasis on Mohammed's surroundings, on the small details that add to the weight and waywardness of his fate. Sometimes the indulgence in pretty shots and symbolism becomes too obvious — the many moments the airplane flies overhead easily comes to mind — but Meteor Street delivers because it actually has something meaningful to say.
by Richard Bolisay