(director/writer: Sebastian Lelio; screenwriters: Rebecca Lenkiewicz/based on the book by Naomi Alderman; cinematographer: Danny Cohen; editor: Nathan Nugent; music: Matthew Herbert; cast: Rachel Weisz (Ronit Krushka), Rachel McAdams (Esti Kuperman), Alessandro Nivola (Dovid Kuperman), Cara Horgan (Miss Scheinberg), Anton Lesser (Rav Krushka), Allen Corduner(Moshe Hartog), Nicholas Woodeson (Rabbi Goldfarb), Mark Stobbert (Lev), Caroline Gruber (Mrs Hannah Shapiro), Bernice Stegers (Fruma Hartog), Liza Sadovy (Rebbetzin Goldfarb), Clara Francis (Hinda); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Frida Torresblanco /Ed Guiney/Rachel Weisz/Geneviève Lemal; Braven Films; 2017)
“Well-acted and tastefully directed.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A sizzling same-sex triangle romance drama set in the Orthodox Jewish community in London that’s well-acted and tastefully directed by Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio (“A Fantastic Woman”/”Gloria”), working for the first time in English.
It’s based on the 2006 novel by Naomi Alderman, and is tersely co-written by the director and the playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz.Ronit Krushka (Rachel Weisz, Brit expat), an avant-garde photographer and feminist, returns after years away in Manhattan to her childhood Orthodox Jewish community in the north London suburb of Hendon, that turned their back on her when she had a romance with another female.
She is the estranged daughter of the revered Rav Krushka (Anton Lesser), who has disavowed her bohemian lifestyle. In his last lecture, he relates ‘free will’ as a valuable divine asset that only humans are capable of carrying out with proper meaning. Upon her dad’s death she returns home for the funeral and the community is outwardly polite but still cold. She continues to upset them with her rebellious behavior of not covering her head, smoking in public and rebellious attitude.While sitting Shiva, she’s coldly greeted by Rabbi Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), her father’s disciple and childhood friend, who will be her father’s successor. Ronit is shocked to learn he’s now married to her repressed teenage lover – Esti (Rachel McAdams). Upon meeting Esti again, now a shy schoolteacher, their sexual juices are aroused and they have an afternoon sexual encounter.
The close-knit community hears about it and the melodramatics are acted out in an unpleasant heavy-handed manner–telling how in the Orthodox community such an act is a marriage breaker. It’s the kind of intelligent but flawed film that calls for its characters to follow their heart no matter the consequences, as it takes a hammer to smashing a religion’s traditions without building-up another side to the story, the traditionalist’s side, that also matters.
REVIEWED ON 8/24/2018 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/