In “Gentila,” a gentle Israeli road movie, three sensitive down-and-out youths and one baddie circle the country in a van, putting up flags at gas stations for Independence Day. The political symbolism here is hard to pin down, but that’s probably for the best, allowing auds to focus on the characters’ attempts to connect with one another. Pic is a decent first feature by helmer Agor Shif, and should find an appreciative audience at Israeli film events, with maybe a few small-screen takers.
Nice boy Gadi (Nir Levi), who got caught robbing his first bank, has been released from prison on probation and assigned a three-day job putting up flags for the holiday. He talks his kid brother, Itzakale (Avshalom Polak), into coming with him, while their mother — estranged from Gadi — lies dying in the hospital. Alarmingly, Shoshana (Alon Abutbul), an escaped con entangled in Gadi’s past, turns up and invites himself along.
At a roadside cafe, they pick up a battered, pregnant hitchhiker (Yevgena Dudina). Both brothers are strongly attracted to her, but when Shoshana rapes her one morning, neither is around to protect her. She wearily returns to the rich idiot whose baby (the Gentila of the title) she’s carrying.
Levi and Polak create strong focus points as the brothers, for whom this mini-trip is bound to be memorable. Abutbul’s role as the dangerous con is way overwritten, but Dudina comes through nicely as a tough, clear-headed girl whose hopes for the future rest with her unborn child. Pic suffers from an over-leisurely pace and low-budget monotony — almost all the action takes place inside the van or at anonymous gas stations, which grow mightily boring by story’s end.