Welcome to the world of arranged marriages, as shown in director/writer's Dover Kosashvilli's compelling debut film, Late Marriage. A man in the middle of countless matrimonial negotiations, Zaza (Lior Loui Ashkenazi), is a 31-year-old doctorate Russian born student who can't settle on any woman despite the help of his relatives. That's because he's seeing (and supporting with his parents' money) an attractive, slightly older single mother, Judith (Ronit Elkabetz).
The movie's main plotline isn't introduced until a good thirty minutes or so into the movie, which opens with a visit to Zaza's aunt and uncle's home and later with a trip to a potential bride's (the hopeful designer) apartment. These scenes serve as scathing critiques on marriage and beyond. Zaza's aunt and uncle bicker endlessly, and there's little trace of love in their conversation. The visit with the bride's family resembles a business meeting, as Zaza's dad spouts off a list of his son's possessions -- a new refrigerator, a big screen TV. Each party seems more concerned that these people are joined together by brand names, not love.
Though these scenes work, they also devour time and thus lead to continuity problems with Zaza and Judith. One night they're engaged in secret, sweaty sex that goes on seemingly forever. The next, he's playing with Judith's young daughter. There's no logical progression in how Zaza becomes part of the family picture. And when two carloads of Zaza's family members come to confront the illicit couple it seems even more surreal, especially since we haven't seen half of these people before. I initially thought it was a mob hit.
However, with material so powerfully presented, minor mistakes can be overlooked. When Zaza's family barges into Judith's apartment, spouting threats and knocking over things, we know that happiness is the last part of the marriage equation. As his family makes plainly clear, it's all about image and meeting family standards that are, who knows, how old and out of touch. After all, these are people that still believe in the validity of love charms.
One hackneyed plot device used in television and movies focuses on the overbearing parents who are hell-bent on seeing their children wed and with kids. Here's a movie that dares to look beyond the easy comedic and dramatic possibilities. There is no love conquers all, it's just not programmed in the psyche. Late Marriage takes a look at an Old World, passionless arrangement in a way that is at once so biting and so brutally honest that you chuckle first, then shudder.
Aka Hatuna Meuheret.
Run time: 102 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 24th October 2001
Box Office USA: $1.2M
Distributed by: Magnolia
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 56 Rotten: 8
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Director: Dover Kosashvili
Screenwriter: Dover Kosashvilli