“Omar,” one of this year’s nominees for the best foreign language Oscar, is set in the moral quagmire that is the occupied West Bank, and it’s told with a stark, pitiless clarity that leaves you with fewer answers than before. A pilgrim’s progress in reverse, it follows an idealistic young hero on a trajectory in which everything he knows and trusts is stripped away, and it suggests that this is simply what it means to be Palestinian in Israel. The movie lands like a punch.
The title character, Omar (played by a lanky, charismatic newcomer named Adam Bakri), is a baker in the West Bank and part of a small resistance cell made up of the grimly purposeful Tarek (Iyad Hoorani) and Omar’s childhood friend Ajmad (Samer Bisharat). The group has plans to shoot a random Israeli soldier, but Omar is more a lover than a fighter. When we meet Nadia (Leem Lubany), Tarek’s younger sister, we understand why. As the two meet furtively, exchange love letters, and dream about honeymoons in Paris, writer-director Hany Abu-Assad (2005 Oscar nominee “Paradise Now”) creates an aura of fragile romantic tenderness that turns intensely moving as it comes under siege.