Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Movie with Abe: The Other Story

The Other Story
Directed by Avi Nesher
Released June 28, 2019

Religion can be a source of comfort for people, giving them faith in a higher power and a belief that good deeds count for something since there is indeed someone watching over in judgment. It can also be extremely stifling, forcing those who don’t fit into a box to adhere to standards that suppress their individuality and prevent them from being able to thrive. Putting pressure on them to conform only serves to create more resentment, and there are those raised away from observant religion who find it later, which in turn can create friction with family members and friends who don’t understand or agree with their newfound perspective.

Yonatan (Yuval Segal) arrives in Israel from America after being summoned by his ex-wife Tali (Maya Dagan) and his father Shlomo (Sasson Gabai). The reason for his visit is the impending marriage of his daughter Anat (Joy Rieger) to popular musician Shahar (Nathan Goshen) following the rock star couple’s recent transition to very observant Judaism. As Yonatan gets to know the daughter he abandoned long ago, he begins to help his therapist father with two of his clients, Rami (Maayan Blum), a husband concerned about how his wife, Sari (Avigail Harari), who was raised religious, is involving their young son in the pagan rituals she is attending.

While religion plays a major role in the lives of Anat and Sari, this film doesn’t actually deal much with observance. The concern expressed by Tali and Shlomo about Anat’s wedding has less to do with their disagreements about piousness and how it changes a person and more to do with their lack of faith in Shlomo having actually changed from the former drug user’s bad influences. Rami can’t understand what his wife is doing with a pagan group in Jerusalem, and the fact that it is open only to women and children creates yet another barrier. Yonatan, who has alienated everyone he left behind, arrives and is able to analyze both situations objectively, uninterested in immersing himself in either of the religious worlds and instead trying to understand the people involved rather than only their ideologies.

This film reunites director Avi Nesher with the star of his previous film, “Past Life” (read my interview with him here), Rieger, who serves as the dramatic anchor of this multifaceted story. Dagan steals most of her scenes with a fiery energy, and it’s fun to see Gabai, a seasoned actor from films like “The Band’s Visit” and “Gett: The Trial of Vivianne Amsalem,” in a supporting turn that finds him providing comic relief. This film is involving and unusual in the threads it weaves together, building a thought-provoking experience that explores the intersection of different personalities and cultures.


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