By Owen Gleiberman
Updated February 21, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

Close to Home is one of the rare movies from Israel that refuses to spell out its politics, and you may wind up grateful for the ambiguity. Smadar (Smadar Sayar) and Mirit (Naama Schendar) are 18-year-old army conscripts who patrol the streets of Jerusalem, where their job is to hector random Palestinians into showing their IDs. It’s a series of petty humiliations — for the Arabs who get stopped, for the two women doing the detaining. They’re like hall monitors working the most lethal corridors of the globe, yet Close to Home, which was written and directed by Vidi Bilu and Dalia Hager (who drew on their own experiences), never takes an easy stance toward Israel’s daily clampdown. Is it necessary for state security or a provocation that fans the flames?

The real provocation is that Smadar, with her dyed streak of crimson hair and her smeary Linda Fiorentino smile, could hardly give a damn. She’s a pleasure-seeking rebel who shoplifts for the hell of it and has no discernible nationalistic passion. Mirit, by contrast, is a Goody Two-shoes, yet even she’s more interested in the handsome stranger who helps her after a suicide bombing than she is in bringing the perpetrators to justice. As the two women flirt and dance and carry themselves with a listless sensual hunger, the movie mirrors their aimlessness a bit too literally. Yet Close to Home fills in the flavor of a nation that defines itself so thoroughly by rituals of defense that life there is now something that just gets in the way. B