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dir Sebastian Lelio
scr Sebastian Lelio, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
prd Ed Guiney, Frida Torresblanco, Rachel Weisz
with Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Allan Corduner, Bernice Stegers, Anton Lesser, Alexis Zegerman, David Fleeshman, Nicholas Woodeson, Liza Sadovy, Steve Furst, Clara Francis
release US 27.Apr.18, UK 30.Nov.18
17/UK Film4 1h54
Forbidden love: McAdams and Weisz
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Set among in North London's Jewish community, this film blends its central plot with bigger ideas swirling around the setting. This means that the story struggles to create what should be a properly devastating emotional kick. Even so, the filmmaking and acting are strong enough that it has several vivid moments. And even apart from the subculture, the plot is genuinely involving.
When her respected rabbi father (Lesser) dies, Ronit (Weisz) surprises everyone at the shiva by traveling back home from New York to Britain. Her lifelong friend Dovid (Nivola), her father's protege, takes her in. But she's surprised that he is now married to Esti (McAdams), her old flame. The discovery of her romance with Esti is what drove Ronit to leave years ago. So when she discovers that Esti still has feelings for her, she wonders if maybe it's time to fight for this love that no one wants to speak about.
The unusual setting makes the film fascinating from the start, as Lelio gently depicts Orthodox Jewish tradition. On the surface, this feels like a story a culture so filled with requirements that people are unable to be themselves. But it also becomes clear that this kind of narrative could be set virtually anywhere: it's about two women who fell in love, then denied their connection and tried to get on with their lives separately, only to find themselves thrown back together.
Weisz is terrific in a complex role as a woman who has moved beyond family and religion, although they've never left her. Her re-entry into this life is beautifully played, as Ronit both embraces and flinches from everything. She and Nivola nicely play their characters' evolving friendship, and thankfully he never turns into a simplistic antagonist. McAdams gives Esti a tenuous physicality as a woman who has compromised so many times that there's little of her that anyone to see. She and Weisz find lovely rhythms as Ronit and Esti bring each other back to life.
Intriguingly, while Ronit is the protagonist, she remains fairly cerebral. She clearly has deep feelings, but she knows how to hide them. By contrast, Esti's bundle of conflicting emotions draws the audience in, so her journey is what gives the film resonance. All of these people take their traditions very seriously, which makes the film feel somewhat moody and even gloomy. But the nuanced approach to this collision between religion and sexuality is refreshingly open-hearted.
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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