4 February 2005 | eyal philippsborn
Gut wrenching occasionally, biased consistently but altogether impressive
The first question that popped in my head once the ending credits appeared, was- should I be offended?
This movie, after all, deals with religious-Zionists and I am a movie-buff secular so maybe the depiction of this much maligned (for no justifiable reason, in my humble opinion) sector was credible and not a slanderous attack. I believe I have reached a conclusion.
Today, when a new rift in Israel is emerging over the implementation of the disengagement program lead by prime minister, Ariel Sharon, it's easy to relate to the 1981 struggle against the evacuation of the Sinai peninsula after the signing of the historical peace accord with Egypt.
1981 found Tammy Gerlik (Hani Furstenberg in a wonderful performance) in a Jerusalemite neighborhood with her older sister and widowed mom who decides to move to a new settlement in the occupied territories with her circle of the religious, patriotic and unified but also hypocrite and mistrusting circle of friends. It also finds Tammy in her teenage years when romantic feelings and self-defining questioning begin to emerge. Her generally cheerful personality suffers a major setback when Tammy is nearly raped by a violent teenager with the cheering of his dubious "buddies". With a mother too self-absorbed, and "friends" that tag her as a promiscuous girl, she finds a soul mate in her rebellious sister that is alienated to her mother for abolishing her chance of privacy in a very boisterously funny scene that involves a hammer (can't elaborate, sorry).
In the meantime, the mother, Rachel (Micaela Eshet, in a reasonably good but not much more, performance), is a 42 year old strong woman who had married too early and went through life without falling in love. While shunning as delicately as possible the courting of a highly renowned and severely boring, cantor, she forms a friendship with, Yossi, a bachelor bus driver/ultimate loser who has lost hope of ever conjugating (let alone, wed) an actual woman.
With Yossi as a refuge from the pretense of a strong willed woman, Rachel realizes the true nature of her friends, the frailty of their loyalty and worst of all, their obsession of sweeping unflattering phenomena under the carpet, even at the grave price of perpetuating it for posterity.
The movie is well acted, credibly written and even manages to give the audience the atmosphere of the early 80's when Israelis had one TV channel to watch, one telephone company and a strong sense of patriotism that is disparaged and demonetized by too many these days.
Which brings me to my question in the beginning of this review, should I, the secular guy (who identifies with Yossi the bus driver more than he wishes), should be offended when the religious society is presented in a very critical manner.
The answer to that question is simple: when you are offended on behalf of a grown up group for being disparaged, you might be disparaging it yourself by deciding for them how they should feel.
I feel, personally, that the director, Yosef Cedar (who grew up in a religious background but is pretty estranged to it, according to his own testimony) decided to "indict" his origins. As a result, the viewer is deprived from an unbiased impression of one of the most enigmatic, controversial and riveting sector in contemporary Israeli society.
The movie won as best film in the Israeli Oscar competition and its victory was outshone by the fact that the movie "sof haolam smola" which was one of the most popular films in Israeli history, wasn't even nominated in any of the major categories.
Unfair representation of "Sof haolam smola" in the Israeli Oscar robbed the movie of the buzz it could have generated. Also, the film's unfair representation of a certain sector in the Israeli society left me questioning its antagonism, rather than enjoy its undeniable qualities. Qualities it hones in abundance.
8.5 out of 10 in my FilmOmeter.