Close to Home is a film about love, friendship and policing a large population of Arabs. It centers on a group of young, naive female Israeli Army border guards who seek out companionship where they can while trying to do a good job and escape the icy stare of their hardened commander, Dubek (an entirely convincing Irit Suki.) Looking very much like the Israeli cousins of Claire Forlani and Selma Blair, the two leads are Mirit (Neama Schendar) and Smadar (Smadar Sayar.) Their days consist of smoking, talking, and dishing out petty humiliations like ID checks and bag dumps, all the while being watched by an upper tier of scowling superiors who have seen the worst that can come of such routine interactions. While the girls can handle the onrush of foot traffic that begins every morning and continues throughout the day, many of them clearly lack the physical wherewithal to overpower the problem suspects that occasionally come along. The film's most intriguing moments come when we see several members of the exclusively female guard unit swarming around a solitary Arab who goes off script
Although one of the recurring themes is self-doubt among the Israeli rank and file, Close to Home is aggressively self-aware in terms of its political shadings; each happening that could be perceived as casting an anti-Israeli light is blocked near another event that seems to reinforce the no-nonsense attitude of the grizzled veterans in the bunch. For better or worse, co-directors Vardit Bilu and Dalia Hagar have manipulated the plot so as to place the 'job' the girls do mostly in the background and focus on building a relationship drama between the two principals. Smadar is introduced to us first, conducting a point-by-point inspection of a Palestinian woman in a curtained booth as small as a fitting room. When a fellow inspector suddenly suffers a mini-breakdown on the scene, due to her own misgivings about the validity of the invasive, humiliating search process, Smadar just watches dispassionately. Mirit is closer in spirit to the broken-down recruit; she suffers from serious reservations about her service, but prefers escapism over conscientious objection.