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By Mark Bell | September 19, 2011

Rami (Ali Ammar) is a spectre in his own life. Physically handicapped, socially awkward, he spends most of his time under the radar, somewhat invisible to his family, wandering around town during the days and instant messaging on his computer at night. It is in the latter world, the online chatroom scene, where Rami becomes romeo11, a jet-setting businessman, living out of hotels and seemingly always on the go. At least that’s the impression he’s been giving to his nightly chat partner malaury26, which is fine until Rami decides it’s time to make the transition from online conversation to live, in-person interaction.

Romeo Eleven is one of those films that you really need to invest your mind in. While my synopsis above seems straightforward and broad enough, the movie slides along at a slow pace, polishing new character and plot developments out of the subtlety. In its way, you don’t know for a large chunk of the film why Rami is so awkward and shy or even what his physical handicap is. You’re dropped right into a moment in his family’s life, the marriage of his older sister, and his concurrent attempt to become that which he has imagined he really wants to be.

It works, however, due to the strong, almost non-acting by Ali Ammar as Rami. He may move a little differently, and his head seems to be in a permanent gaze at some spot slightly beyond his feet when he’s around other people, but he nevertheless draws you in. The cinematography and score complete the hypnosis, and you can’t help but empathize with the man.

Which is where this movie will hurt you, because once you start putting yourself in the same shoes as Rami, and really emotionally connect with what he’s going through, then any pain he feels, you’re going to feel too. And I appreciated that I connected so strongly with the film, but I sure could’ve done without getting my gut kicked by the emotional turbulence that begins to bubble up.

If you’ve ever had a moment of self-doubt in your life, you’ve probably wished you could be anyone else but yourself, and while you can surely make yourself who you want to be, you’ll still only ever be you. Some people come to that realization slowly, some never come to it. Watching Rami work his way through it is both troubling and inspiring, and that is why Romeo Eleven succeeds.

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