Wedding Doll

A mildly brain-injured girl seeks independence from her mother, to pursue a marriage with her lover and a career in fashion design in Nitzan Gilady’s debut feature Wedding Doll. If you’re a longtime reader, you may recall that my oldest (referred to occasionally herein as “The Enigma”) is severely brain-injured, and an Israeli Film Fest film, Next To Her, very closely captured the nature of her brain injury. I have a particular sensitivity, shall we say, to movies that purport to portray brain-injured people. Hollywood, for example, tends to treat the handicapped the way they treated black people in the ’90s: As sources of magic or mysticism.

The late, lamented Michael Clarke Duncan
And if you were black AND brain-injured, you were basically Jesus.

This, of course, robs them of their humanity: The brain-injured, while often seeing the world radically differently than the rest of us, are still human beings with ambitions and foibles, and are often—as shown in this movie—deprived of the data needed to assess themselves, and living in a world that preys (naturally) on the weakest.

The lovely Moran Rosenblatt plays Hagit, a 25ish young woman who works at a local toilet paper factory where she crushes (not entirely unreciprocated) on the son of the owner, and obsesses over making dresses, particularly wedding dresses. When the owner of the factory decides to shut it down, Hagit sees this as an opportunity to ply her trade as a fashion designer in the Big City.

Struggling to wrangle this bundle of energy is her mother, Sara, played by Assi Levy. Sara is desperately lonely and isolated, her ex-husband having moved far away, and her son having seemed to take said husband’s side in the split. Hagit’s desire for independence means that she must be constantly vigilant, lest the cunning Hagit get away from her. And, of course, it’s no contest: Hagit does get away, all the time. (My favorite gag is when she wakes up before her mother in the morning and resets her alarm clock.)

Because kids like that will do just that.

True.
And smile while they scheme.

Also, she lies to her mother, who makes her promise not to leave the house while she’s gone. But she’s out with her “boyfriend” Omri (Roy Assaf, God’s NeighborsJaffa) at every opportunity. Omri is also a man of ambition: He wants to save the toilet paper factory. But his father has little faith in him, and while this is very much a movie about Hagit and Sara, Omri has multiple tests of character to face throughout.

To just say that it’s an unkind and unsafe world for the brain-injured would be trite, and the movie carefully treads between having the audience sympathize with Hagit while not letting us forget that, for all her ability, she still makes decisions like a child, and still is often unable to handle even very mild conflict in a safe fashion. Often, but not always.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that the temptation for a storyteller to end a movie like this with some horrible tragedy is practically overwhelming, if we judge based on outcomes of similar stories, and Wedding Doll avoids that. It grants Hagit the dignity of being a real person, rather than just a plot device, and that’s a very good thing.

I liked it a great deal, and The Boy himself was not unmoved.

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