Thursday, March 27, 2014

Movie with Abe: Youth (Capsule Review)

I had the privilege to attend a public screening from New Directors/New Films, a series presented by Film Society Lincoln Center and MoMA, which includes a handful of features from the Sundance Film Festival, including “Obvious Child” and “The Double.”

Directed by Tom Shoval
Screened March 26 at 6pm at MoMA

This is an unconventional Israeli film, one that does not deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or much with religion itself, but instead with two brothers trying to support their parents financially who decide, while the older brother, Yaki, is on leave from the army, to kidnap a classmate of the younger brother, Shaul, to get ransom money from her parents. Predictably, their plan doesn’t go smoothly, but it does involve the two shuttling up and down flights of stairs between a family dinner in their apartment and the basement in which their captive, Dafna, is being kept. It’s an entirely unsettling premise, and the film is permeated by a sense of dread, as the brothers watch their family unfold as they panic about whether Dafna is still breathing many floors below. There is a good deal of subtle humor embedded into the film, most notably with Shaul’s extensive collection of movie t-shirts and posters thanks to his job ripping tickets at a local movie theater. Hostage videos with Rambo and Nicolas Cage shirts aside, this movie lacks any real references to other movies, which is a disappointment. Casting two real-life brothers, on the other hand, is a success, and it’s clear that these two individuals are on the same page and of the same mind, capturing what they perceive to be a spoiled rich girl in order to improve their family circumstances. The rapport between them feels authentic, and there’s something about them that is far from threatening, even though their actions and tactics indicate that they are indeed formidable and could easily end Dafna’s life in a moment. As a comment on economic status, this film gets somewhere, but its narrative construction and plot direction are less satisfactory. It’s hard to determine just what the intent is here in terms of telling a moral or metaphorical story, and it certainly doesn’t seem or feel like a productive one.


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