Sunday, October 22, 2017

Movie with Abe: Thy Father’s Chair (Capsule Review)

Thy Father’s Chair
Directed by Àlex Lora, Antonio Tibaldi
Released October 13, 2017

I’ve never seen the show “Hoarders,” but I have some idea of what it’s about and can imagine how each episode is structured. This documentary brings audiences into the lives of Abraham and Shraga, two Orthodox Jewish twins from Brooklyn who basically haven’t thrown anything away since their parents passed away. The arrival of a professional cleaning service, mandated by a tenant who refuses to pay rent until the conditions of the brothers’ apartment are improved, prompts the brothers to panic not because their home is being invaded by strangers but because it means their things will be disturbed and possibly discarded.

What’s most interesting about the focus on these two relatively antisocial men is their commitment to their religion. In the first scene, the concept of “shaimos” is explained in reference to books that must not be thrown away even if they’re infested, and later, one brother reads aloud from a megillah when they are told that they may not be able to save it. As their apartment is slowly transformed, they meditate on what life could have been like if their father had moved them to San Diego and they had not become observant, and they even ask the movers if they pray, revealing that they too doubt their faith sometimes. It’s a slow burn of a documentary that serves as more of an excerpt of their lives than anything, including several moments of alarm, like a report that their apartment had more roaches than a Manhattan restaurant, but otherwise not too much worth remembering despite the intriguing and undeniably original setup.


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