The Kind Words

We tend to favor the Israeli films in one sense: We don’t really expect them to get a fair shake, either critically or when a small audience aggregate score is involved. So this film’s shockingly low 38% from audiences didn’t dissuade us much, even though the subject matter didn’t seem that interesting.

The story is this: A teenage girl has a lover from whom she is forcibly taken by her family. Decades later, her children, mourning her death—when they’re not hating on their father, Sasson Gabai (GETTThe Band’s Visit) and his younger love interest—come to find little bits of evidence that suggest their father is not, in fact, their father.

Irony.

She’s mad at him because he’s been faithless to their mother. Heh.

Sure, we’ve seen it before. But have we seen it done by Israelis? Actually, I kind of think so, but I can’t quite recall.

The mystery centers around a photograph where the oldest daughter, Dorona (Rotem Cohen, Hunting Elephants) is standing with her mother, many decades ago in a park in France. And the question becomes: Who took the picture? The Aunt in France her mother visited annually is helpful only in that her lies are transparent and unconvincing, and soon the three take off on an adventure to find out if they have a real dad somewhere in France.

It’s a brooding, emotional story, which isn’t too heavy, mostly, though it has a certain ennui to it: The three children are all, in their own ways, dysfunctional. It’s never really clear as to why they hate their Father so much, except to blame him for leaving their mother for a younger woman, and then somehow in that fashion contributing to her death. The central question quickly becomes: Is it true? Do we want to know? If we found out, how does that change our view of our parents? And so on.

Not as funny as the series suggests.

Arrested development.

It’s a common enough story these days, but Dorona is an interesting character. She seems to be the most troubled by the proceedings, and the only one in a position to actually remember the man who might be their father. And if they find the father, that raises more questions, like: Does he want to know us? Or, was his relationship to their mother free of any of her real life entanglements?

Director Shemi Zarhin gives us a story that moves, but occasionally uncertainly. It would feel false for things to wrap up neatly, but at the same time the emotional effect we do get is somewhat muted and melancholy. It’s a good movie, but definitely a low key one.

Low. Key.

Spyin’ on papa.

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