Disobedience (2017)

Impression: Although I have seen quite a few movies set in orthodox Jewish communities (not sure why I have seen so many?) usually in Israel or New York, I feel none of them have felt so close up and intimate with the different religious rituals than Disobedience. In this film, set among London’s orthodox community, you actually feel like you are in the synagogue listening to rabbi Krushka speak in the first scene, or later that you are in Dovid’s house with all the mourners. The camera is tight on everyone’s faces and the rooms are small, and you get a sense of how close and tight knit the community is, but also how suffocating it can feel. Enter Ronit, the prodigal daughter living in New York, working as a photographer, living a much different life than she left behind. She returns for her father’s funeral and is faced with her past. The way those scenes are shot is amazing, and you almost feel in her skin. Uncomfortable. Familiar, but judged. The story unveils slowly, she left without saying goodbye, some years ago. Her best male and female friends (Dovid and Esti) have since married each other, and he is being trained to take over for her father.  At first, Esti seems much more guarded towards Ronit then Dovid, and as if she is only tolerating Ronit staying with them because her husband invited her.  Ronit is a loudmouth and even though she eventually gets herself invited to family functions, she has a hard time keeping quiet about her opinions and all the things she disapproves of in the community she has left behind. Slowly, even more details of the past are revealed, and things between Ronit, Dovid and Esti are not quite what they seemed in the beginning. I enjoyed the way this film was shot very much and the slow way in which the past is revealed. The only part of the movie I really disliked was the central sex scene, which I felt was cheap and exploitative. Why shoot a sex scene as a montage? To show it was long? To be able to show the sequence of a all it entailed?  But why does that even matter? I don’t know why, but it really rubbed me the wrong way.  In all other ways I thought the film was beautiful and well done. And I very much enjoyed the ending.
Facts:  Extreme close-up of the life inside an orthodox Jewish community in London, as a rabbi’s prodigal daughter’s return for his funeral causes waves
Extra: I saw this film at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

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