Monday, June 11, 2018

Israel Film Center Festival Spotlight: Longing

I’m pleased to be covering the 6th Annual Israel Film Center Festival at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, which runs June 5th-12th.

Directed by Savi Gabizon
Screened June 9th at 9:30pm

Grieving is a painful process, since saying goodbye to someone acknowledges that new memories together can’t be created. If final moments included unresolved conversations or negative sentiments, the process of moving on is increasingly difficult. If a mourner never knew the person who has been lost, the road to acceptance of their death is marked with many realizations, both good and bad, about all the things missed along the way that now can never be experienced.

Ariel (Shai Avivi) receives an unexpected call from Ronit (Assi Levy), a woman he dated two decades earlier, who tells him that she was pregnant when they broke up and that Adam, the son she gave birth to, has just died in a car accident. She never told him because she knew he didn’t want kids, and this news compels him to try to get to know his son after his death. Acting as a proud father learning about his boy, Ariel obsesses over the teacher (Neta Riskin) Adam loved and even tries to set his son up with a young girl who committed suicide and now resides in the same cemetery as Adam.

This film is reminiscent of a similarly-titled 2014 entry from Sundance, “Lilting,” which follows the British boyfriend and Cambodian-Chinese mother of a man who has just died and who are both mourning him despite not being able to speak the same language. Had the two met when the person who connects them was alive, they might have understood each other better, and in this case, Ariel acts as if he’s joyfully meeting everyone who knows the son that he isn’t quite acknowledging is no longer living. The proposal that he makes to Gideon (Yoram Toledano) about setting up their two deceased children seems particularly far-fetched, but it’s just another way of grieving by making up for lost time, helping his son out romantically even after he’s no longer alive.

Avivi starred in a more fully comedic take on mourning, “One Week and a Day,” several years ago, and here gets to play the supportive parent who is both persistent and passionate, grounding a story that might otherwise seem far-fetched. Levy, Toledano, and the omnipresent Riskin, who stars in two other Israel Film Center Festival projects, provide the appropriate dramatic support, reacting to Ariel’s suggestions in a human and relatable way. This film takes a sweet and sentimental turn that makes it ultimately feel a fitting, if strange, tribute to the much talked-about protagonist that the audience also never has the chance to meet.


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