Drama, not rated, in Hebrew with subtitles, 112 minutes, The Screen, 2.5 chiles
“Nobody,” observes the elderly psychologist Shlomo (Sasson Gabai, The Band’s Visit), “ever said parenting was logical.”
When parenting is paired with religion, logic is in pell-mell retreat and remains so throughout Israeli director Avi Nesher’s entertaining but scattershot story of strained relationships and cultural divides in contemporary Jerusalem.
The triggering event in this swirl of domestic hostilities is the engagement of Anat ( Joy Rieger), a formerly wild and worldly young rebel, to Shachar (Israeli pop star Nathan Goshen), a rock singer and recovering drug addict who has turned his back on his dissolute past to embrace the long locks and longer study of Orthodox Judaism. They once made sexually suggestive music videos; now he studies the Torah and croons soulful tunes as a singing rabbinical student, and she has followed him into the restrictive embrace of religious fundamentalism.
Their impending marriage has galvanized Anat’s fractured family to reunite for action. Her freethinking atheist mother Tali (Maya Dagan), horrified at losing her daughter to what she sees as the misogynistic fog of ultra-orthodoxy, has enlisted the help of her former father-in-law Shlomo and even summoned her hated ex-husband Yonatan (Yuval Segal) to try to put a stop to the nuptials.
Not that Yonatan is likely to have much sway with his daughter, who bitterly resents his abandonment of the family. Complicating matters, Yonatan, a noted psychologist in America, is pressed into service by his father on a messy divorce case that Shlomo is mediating under court order. This other story involves Sari (Avigail Harari), a woman whose furious feminism has driven her into a pagan cult. Her husband Rami (Maayan Bloom) fears for the safety of their son — a concern the film encourages with a display of knives and foreboding references to the story of Abraham and Isaac.
There’s one other story involving a murky business venture of Yonatan’s back in the States that drags in yet another ethical ingredient to this tossed salad of moral dilemmas.
Nesher weaves all these strands together, with unlikely alliances and widening rifts and pressing questions about parental responsibility and interference. The issues are compelling, but the stories and plot devices sometimes get in each other’s way.