In My Country does not take place in South Africa during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of 1996, in which the many victims of the brutal apartheid regime confronted their torturers. It purports to, but any reasonable moviegoer can tell you that when every scene of a film is an awkward confrontation, every piece of dialogue a wooden rhetorical device and every character an idiot, South Africa has most definitely been jettisoned for Movie Land.

This sad truth is all the more shameful considering how moving In My Country should have been. Binoche and Jackson star, respectively, as a white South African poet and a black Washigton Post reporter who meet at the trials and fall in love despite their huge ideological differences -- and the fact that they're both happily married with children. Most of the film is devoted to their courtship, but it's a hard pill to swallow; with Jackson's binge drinking and Binoche's political activism, it's a wonder they find the opportunity for a shitty sex scene. (Their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and they have to sleep together). Thus the story that deserves our attention -- South Africa's fascinating ubuntu philosophy of seeking truth and repentance from apartheid criminals -- is given short shrift.

Towards the end, a character notes, "[life's] not only black and white...sometimes it's fuckin' grey!" Had the filmmakers themselves taken his advice, they might have eschewed cliches and stock characters for actual drama.


All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.