Is That You?
Directed by Dani Menkin
Released August 26, 2016
Films that employ a question as a title invariably take on the challenge of answering that question. This Israeli film, which debuted at festivals in Israel and the United States nearly two years ago and arrives in New York this week, takes its title from the simple phrase its protagonist uses to identify whether he has achieved his goal, which is to find the woman he loved who long ago was no longer part of his life. Best described as a meandering road movie, this harmless journey is filled with some decent if fleeting entertainment.
Ronnie (Alon Aboutboul) is sixty years old and works as a projectionist and finds himself released from his steady job with what he describes as a generous severance package, including a ticket to the United States. His first stop is his brother, who he hasn’t seen or spoken to since their mother’s death, and nostalgia prompts him to, with the aid of his technologically-inclined nephew, begin to search for Rachel (Suzanne Sadler), best defined as the one who got away. An almost directionless road trip gets even further off course when he meets Myla (Naruna Kaplan de Macedo), an aspiring filmmaker who barters her way out of tough spots by offering to make every person she speaks to the subject of her documentary, which conveniently enough is focused on regrets.
Ronnie’s quest to find the woman he loved seems destined to end one of two ways: either he’ll find her or he won’t. Whether they get to live out the rest of their lives together is a separate matter, but Ronnie seems to have grown lonely and solitary enough that the thought of being with someone he remembers fondly is substantially appealing for him to just get in a car and drive. Pairing him as a protagonist with Myla is effective because they’re both on journeys to discover something, with hers a more open-ended investigation into what exactly she’s trying to find. As a concept, this film works fine, but it’s far from the most vital cinematic export from Israel to reach the United States. Aboutboul and de Macedo are fun together on screen, and do a decent job carry this lighthearted drama, which is at times engaging but ultimately not terribly memorable.