The winner of nine prizes at the Israeli Academy Awards and a hit in its home country, this is the story of a family that appears to define the term dysfunctional. A mother who is more than a little distracted strives hard to fulfill her parental duties, caring for four children who are a study in rebelliousness, escapism, and anger. Their torment and misery stretches patience to the point of annoyance until its source is finally revealed, at which point our sympathies are ignited.
Dafna (Orly Silbersatz Banai) can't quite catch up to her debts despite meeting all the demands of her job as a midwife in a local hospital, but she manages to provide the bare needs of her two boys and two girls. 17-year-old Maya (Maya Maron) is a singer-writer who might be on the cusp of discovery as a rock artist were it not for the demands of keeping the family together when Dafna isn't able to. The obligatory compromises lead to disaffection in the relationship and an unnatural sullenness.
Maya's troubled twin brother Yair (Nitai Gaviratz) is a study in denial as he insists that the people in his world are unreal, unimportant, or non existent. School and his scholastic promise are becoming more and more meaningless, along with a rejection of basketball, the sport in which he's been a rising star.
Rebellious misbehavior is most staggering when young Ido (Daniel Magon) gives physical expression to his desire to fly by jumping into an empty concrete pool and nearly breaking his neck. Perhaps a death wish? And finally, little Bahr (Eliana Magon, Daniel's real-life sister), is left on her own to wrestle with the burdens of adjusting to a world that's become difficult to comprehend.
The crosscurrent of problems afflicting the family and their efforts to cope tend to eventually break down some of the attitudinal isolation, occasionally introducing humor into the mix. Dafna sees something of a silver lining in a developing relationship with a doctor (Vladimir Friedman) while her courageous perseverance demands our respect and caring. Maya's confusion of emotions and aims take shape under the affection and loyalty she receives from friends and family. Yair's meet-up with an old girlfriend brings out the essential sweetness of his personality and develops some hope for self re-discovery.
The smoldering bomb in this movie goes off when we discover that this is a family stunned into extreme distress by the tragic death of a father nine months previously, jolting us with a new understanding. The character and value shifts, self doubts, defiance, personality disorders, and neuroses are symptoms of grief. The dynamics are suddenly explicable and moving, and they become a powerful statement about loss and the difficulty of adjusting to it.
Writer-director Nir Bergman's (Catching the Sky) emotional thickets are well-realized by a fine ensemble cast that takes its time to hook you into total concern. The central relationship between mother and daughter is finely tuned to reality and is a layered portrayal of interdependence and sacrifice even as the two are being most severely tested. These players are experienced in Israeli cinema and collectively demonstrate a warm, natural appeal.
It's almost surprising that a story from this embattled country can be made without a single reference to the politics and dangers that pervade Israeli life. But the strict avoidance of any reference to matters outside the family circle makes it a universal metaphor for all families traumatized by catastrophic loss, from natural causes or violent ones.
Aka Knafayim Shvurot .
I've got a bike, you can fly it if you like.