Monday, October 22, 2018

DTLA Film Festival: Holy Lands

I had the chance to attend a few screenings from the 10th Annual Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival, which ran from October 17th-21st.

Holy Lands
Directed by Amanda Sthers
Centerpiece Film

There are many reasons that people rebel against religion. Often, the stronger the attempt to push faith upon people, the more that they will push back against it, declaring their determination to resist if only just for the sake of not being told what to do. Attempts to bring them back into the fold and set them on the right path are usually unsuccessful since, unless they have a desire to reconnect with what they’ve lost, it becomes yet another effort to stifle their sense of free will and indoctrinate them to something they’ve clearly expressed no interest in being affiliated with or having dictated for them.

Harry (James Caan) moves to Israel to raise pigs, an unusual decision that invokes the ire of multiple religious authorities, both for his disrespect of the majority populations of the land and his farm’s alleged historical holy Christian roots. As a rabbi, Moshe (Tom Hollander), makes progress in befriending Harry, the pieces of his family that he’s left behind back in America come into focus, shaped entirely by his absence: his playwright son, David (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), his dependent daughter Annabelle (Efrat Dor), and his ex-wife Monica (Rosanna Arquette), whose medical diagnosis compels her to take a serious look back at her life.

Harry’s decision to move to a country where pigs aren’t even allowed to touch the ground after a career in cardiology is perplexing and never explained, and all that’s clear is that he has completely abandoned his family. David’s plays are all about the letters he writes to his father, and Annabelle, who actually comes to visit him, is far from financially or socially independent seemingly as a result of his lack of proper parenthood. These are among the many themes that present themselves in this crowded, disjointed film that struggles to connect its various ideas into one coherent narrative.

Caan’s character calls for little more than being crotchety, and Hollander’s British rabbi is full of puzzling and unsatisfying inconsistencies. Rhys Meyers’ role is barely defined, and only Dor, actually Israeli but playing an American, and Arquette, who received the DTLA Independent Film Pioneer Award, manage to extract some meaning from their parts and portray it on screen. This film, based on director Amanda Sthers’ 2010 French novel, has lofty notions but doesn’t have a way to tie them together, and the product feels decidedly unfinished, assembling theoretically intriguing pieces, some amusing and some less so, in an utterly perplexing and haphazard manner.


No comments: