Set in British Mandatory Palestine, this tense historical thriller from Michael Winterbottom weaves a story of star-crossed love with one of political radicalization.
Set in British Mandatory Palestine, this tense historical thriller from prolific auteur Michael Winterbottom traces the origins of one of the world’s most complex conflicts. Co-written by Winterbottom, his regular collaborator Laurence Coriat (Wonderland, TIFF '99; Genova, TIFF '08), and Paul Viragh, Shoshana weaves a story of star-crossed love with one of political radicalization.
The year is 1938, and tensions run high in Tel Aviv, where the British struggle to maintain order among a mixed Palestinian and Jewish population. Yet English police officer Thomas Wilkin (Douglas Booth) has made his home here — and is madly in love with Shoshana (Irina Starshenbaum), daughter of Zionist Labour movement co-founder Dov Ber Borochov. As the paramilitary organization Irgun, led by poet Avraham Stern (Aury Alby), undertakes a violent campaign to evict the British authorities, Thomas and his superior officer Geoffrey Morton (Harry Melling) adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward the resistance, intensifying their tactics to include torture. Meanwhile, Shoshana receives death threats for daring to fraternize with a member of the occupying forces. She loves Thomas, but she also believes in the pursuit of her people’s independence. She will be forced to choose between the two.
Winterbottom, Coriat, and Viragh wisely structure Shoshana as a procedural, not a polemic. Based on true stories, the film is plotted with surgical precision, and every scene is brisk — which makes its effect that much more brutal. With its subtle homage to The Third Man, its carefully staged set pieces, and its propulsive pace, Shoshana makes for great entertainment, but it is also an insightful portrait of where today's conflicts began.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: accident trauma, violence