Film-Forward Review: [BONJOUR MONSIEUR SHLOMI]

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Aya Koren (L) & Oshri Cohen
Photo: Strand Releasing

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BONJOUR MONSIEUR SHLOMI
Directed & Written by: Shemi Zarhin.
Produced by: Eitan Evan.
Director of Photography: Itzik Portal.
Edited by: Einat Glaser Zarhin.
Music by: Yonatan Bar-Giora.
Released by: Strand Releasing.
Language: Hebrew.
Country of Origin: Israel. 94 min. Not Rated.
With: Oshri Cohen, Esti Zakhaim, Arie Ellias, Yonatan Rozen & Aya Koren.

Pimply, blank-faced Shlomi, 16, tries to keep the peace in his chaotic and demanding family. He runs the household and cooks the meals while his kvetching mother works. (His philandering father has been kicked out). Ordered about by older and favorite son Doron, a preening, would-be Lothario, Shlomi is really a doormat. Only his French-speaking grandfather, whom Shlomi also has to bathe, appreciates the boyís efforts. Hormones running wild, Shlomi silently carries a torch for girl-next-door Rona (played by Aya Koren, an Israeli Liv Tyler), a no-nonsense, independent young woman, who may be one of his brotherís conquests. Shlomi is, in fact, easy to overlook, until his math teacher realizes he is a mathematical prodigy and urges him to pursue higher education. For years, his mother has ignored any hint that her son may have a future other than being a cook.

Like Broken Wings, this Israeli domestic comedy/drama focuses squarely on a turbulent working-class household. As Shlomi, Oshri Cohenís simple and understated performance is well balanced by the broad, but not over-the-top, family members. His mother is so needy she sucks all the oxygen in the room. But her selfishness understandably comes from pain of rejection. The entire cast adds depth to roles that could have been one-note instead. While the outcome is never in doubt, it is not forced, sharing the motherís take-it-or-leave-it attitude. However, it is not quite believable that Shlomi would be considered ďsemi-retard,Ē given he can whip up amazing dinners and desserts.

Comparisons to Good Will Hunting are obvious. Shlomi, like Will, is also an overlooked diamond in the rough coming of age. Fortunately, Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi lacks the smugness or excessive sentimentality of its American counterpart. Itís sweet, with more than a hint of lemon. Kent Turner
June 25, 2004

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