Film Review: DISOBEDIENCE (UK/Ireland/USA 2017) ***1/2

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Disobedience Poster
Trailer

A woman returns to the community that shunned her for her attraction to a childhood friend. Once back, their passions reignite as they explore the boundaries of faith and sexuality.

Director:

Sebastián Lelio

 

Three big reasons stand out for one to see DISOBEDIENCE.  The first is its director, Chilean Sebastian Leilo who won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for A FANTASTIC WOMAN this year.  The second is the script, based on Naomi Alderman’s 2006 acclaimed novel, co-written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz who wrote the Best Foreign Film Oscar Winner IDA, a few years back.  The third is the cast of Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams who go all out to do a same-sex love story compete with a no-holds barred erotic sex scene.

The film begins with a scene of a dissatisfied New York photographer, Ronit (Weisz), a single woman in the city, shown never smiling and having casual sex while receiving news of her father’s passing in London.  She travels to London only to be met with a surprise welcome by the Orthodox Jews that she ran away from.  Her father was a strong pillar, a Rabbi of the Jewish Orthodox Community and she is deemed an outcast.  This is material that moviegoers would shy less run away from.  The film takes a while to gets its footing, and if one is patient enough not to give up on the uncommercial storyline, the reward is a well told powerful tale of freedom, especially from the feminine point of view that is so relevant in today’s times.

So, with her edgy clothing and tousled hair, Ronit looks out of place among the Orthodox women in their plain black garments and synthetic wigs.  She is also in for some unsetting surprises, including the contents of her father’s obituary and will.  She is further shocked to find that her two childhood friends – Esti (McAdams) and rabbi-to-be Dovid (Novice) – are now married.  When Dovid invites Ronit to stay with them, Esti and Ronit rekindle their secret passion for each other.  The film’s second half focuses on the love affair and Esti’s demand to be freed from her marriage form Dovid.

The Jewish rituals are respectfully created with perfect voices singing of the hymns.  But the film clearly has a prejudiced view of the Orthodox Jewish ways.  It looks down at the practices from the very first scene with the over-stern sermon on devils and angels given by the Rabbi before suffering the heart attack that initiates the story’s chain of events.

The sexual scenes are very graphic and erotic especially in the sharing of saliva during a sex scene, reminiscent of Stephen Frears’ sex scene in MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE

The same-sex love is also seen for Esti’s point of view, not only from Ronit’s.  This makes the drama even more relevant.  Understandably, the film’s best scene is the confrontation between Esti and her husband when beating him on the chest, she confesses that she always loved Rachel.

The one reason the film about freedom is so powerful is that erector Leilo switches the points of view from Ronit to Esti to Dovid.  The audience sees and sympathizes with each, not only seeing each person in the love triangle’s point of view but knowing that each are trapped by the past and present emotions.

It does not matter how the story ends.  The film is about emotions and the right to choose, and Leilo’s message comes across bight and clear in his well-executed drama.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEVonh8bjC0

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