Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Movie with Abe: Synonyms

Directed by Nadav Lapid
Released October 25, 2019

Where someone comes from doesn’t represent or shape everything about them, but for some, one or many facets or their geographical background may prove limiting or debilitating. Moving to a new place and starting a new life can open up incredible new possibilities and transform the way they are able to see themselves. Yet a physical location can’t capture or cure everything about a person’s identity, and therefore going somewhere different may only be a temporary fix to a greater problem, fated to begin unraveling at some point.

Yoav (Tom Mercier) is completely disillusioned with Israel, arriving in France determined never to speak Hebrew again. He shows an eager interest in the French language and learning new words. He befriends Emile (Quentin Dolmaire) and Caroline (Louise Chevillotte), sharing stories of his past with them and taking in their culture while working security with an Israeli colleague (Uria Hayik) who seeks to preemptively confront European anti-Semitism by boldly announcing his nationality and religion to anyone he meets, pulling him in two distinctly different directions that cause him to grapple with whether he can actually change who he is.

This film has a particular style to it, presenting its protagonist as utterly lost and in his own world when he is first introduced, soaking in every opportunity to assimilate and act like he’s always been French when that’s far from the case. He reacts negatively to any mention of his being Israeli, and garners most of his energy from a love for words and emphasis on their meanings. His frequent repetition of similar words gives his life some sort of structure and a substantial anchor to where he is at that moment of time, running fast from his past and stumbling uncertainly towards his future.

Mercier makes his film debut with his extremely involved and magnetic lead performance, giving Yoav substance and presenting him in a sympathetic manner. Dolmaire, Chevillotte, and Hayik provide ample support as they color his experiences in France representative of a very disillusioned and detached state where Yoav is grasping for something that may or may not exit. It’s certainly representative of one facet of the Israeli population, even if it’s far from universal. The film as a whole isn’t always focused, but when it is, it’s deeply compelling and captivating, and its protagonist’s self-exploration feels well worth featuring.


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