25 May 2008 | eyal philippsborn
A relatively good movie marred by its attempt not to fall on deaf European ears
Sometimes, it's possible to predict the nature of a film just by its production company. If the production company happens to be, say, Jerry Bruckheimer's, than there's a very good chance you will entail a great deal of explosions and very little dialog; if the production company is Miramax than one of the actors will have a British accent (fake or genuine, doesn't matter) and a love affair that will probably not materialize.
The production company for "Restless", which happens to be an Israeli film shot in Israel and New York is a French-German one (ARTE) which owns a formidable culture TV channel. I'll get back to that a little later on. The fact the film's director, Amos Kollek, is the son of on of the most prominent figures in modern Israeli history is also clearly evident in the film but this too, will have to wait.
Moshe Amar (Moshe Ivgy, the veteran Israeli actor in a great performance) is a once poet and now a "businessman" (a euphemism for "sells whatever crap he's got his hands on") who left his wife with their new born in Israel twenty years ago and spent them in the land of limitless possibilities trying to leave a mark of immortality but, up to that point, only got the marks that frantic debt collectors are more than happy to give. Tsach (Ran Danker, the Israeli heartthrob that gives a surprisingly good performance) is the abandoned son who is now a skilled sniper in the Israeli Army. Tsach resents his father for both abandoning his mother for 21 years and not attending her funeral.
Tsach, like his father, finds himself lost after he mistakenly discharges a bullet and wounds a Palestinian kid, thus ending his illustrious army career. Both Tsach and Moshe, the alienated father and son, need some sort of anchor in their otherwise drifting life. Moshe finds it both in a single-mother waitress with a tough disposition and a good heart (Karen Young in a terrific performance) and in the angry poems that reveal the artist he once was before he succumbed to the greed obsession we usually refer to as "adulthood". Tsach, like his father, will learn to find his anchor after several blank attempts and more importantly, will learn to face his demons so he won't end up the washed out and emotionally crippled man his father.
If you read this whole review (thanks for that, by the way) and wondered why on earth did I drone on and on about the production company for, well, the reason I did it is because even now, three days after watching the film, I still couldn't find a more coherent reason why Moshe, the abandoning father, denounces, time and again, the "occupation" and notes incessantly in his poems that Israel lost its path since 1967 or why Tsach, the disgruntled kid, goes to a drinking binge (as an Israeli soldier, mind you) with several Muslims he never met before (a highly unlikely scenario, even if Alcohol was allowed for Muslims, which it isn't) and most importantly, why all Israeli characters are either lost or cold hearted businessman, devoid of a conscience. The Jewish characters in this film make the Jews in "Passion of the Christ" seem like the Von-Trapp family. I can't determine (and don't know) whether Arte's financial backup really prompted this aspect of the film but I do know that it's redundant to the story development and that it also kinder on European suave ears than on the Israeli ragged ones. On a side note, I always add quotation marks to the word "occupation" because neither the west bank nor Gaza were independent entities, they were always under Jordan and Egypt rule (respectively) prior to the 1967 war so Israel is not anymore an occupier than they were.
The movie's premise that Israel owes an apology for everything it did in the last 40 years can't be acceptable to the average Israeli who, to the best of my knowledge, don't have shares in ARTE.
As a veteran film director, Amos Kollek does a good but not flawless job. The movie is far superior to the amateurish "Happy End" of 2003 but lacks the infinite charm of "fast food, fast women" of 2000. The script is very well written but the climax (can't elaborate, sorry) seems fast forwarded and not well constructed. The acting is all-round superb and the grim life of the disillusioned Israeli in New-York are well depicted by the camera, script and editing. As an Israeli (with political opinions that are not indecipherable, I assume), I went to see a film about my country and wandered if the film (despite it's obvious qualities) was shot in a conveniently located, parallel universe.
7.5 out of 10 in my filmOmeter.