Film-Forward Review: JELLYFISH

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Sarah Adler as Batya & Nikol Leidman as the mysterious girl
Photo: Zeitgeist Films

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Directed by Etgar Keret & Shira Geffen
Written by Geffen
Produced by Amir Harel, Ayelet Kait, Yaël Fogiel & Laetitia Gonzalez
Director of Photography, Antoine Héberlé
Edited by Sasha Franklin & François Gédigier
Music by Christopher Bowen
Released by Zeitgeist Films
Language: Hebrew with English subtitles
Israel/France. 78 min. Not Rated.
With Sarah Adler, Nikol Leidman, Gera Sandler, Noa Knoller, Ma-nenita De Latorre & Zharira Charifai

The Tel Aviv of Jellyfish could be an island in Robert Altman World (though with overlapping story lines instead of dialogue). Three women barely intersect at a wedding, which should be a happy event. Instead, each leaves adrift. The bride is Keren (Noa Knoller), whose honeymoon dream of a Caribbean isle is dashed when she breaks her leg on her wedding day. The woes of hapless waitress Batya (Sarah Adler) rise, from her boyfriend leaving her in the opening scene to her eventually getting fired. And Filipino caregiver Joy (Ma-nenita De Latorre) accompanies an elderly client, but has to look for a new employer the next day.

While Eytan Fox saw Tel Aviv recently as The Bubble, debut co-director/writer Shira Geffen sees it “at the end of the ocean,” as homesick Joy describes it during a long-distance call to her son in the Philippines. Surrounded by water images, the three dispirited women float through their lives, like the eponymous cnidarians on the currents, until each collides with another woman who will transform her.

Sitting on a beach, Batya finds a half-naked redheaded sprite emerging alone out of the sea (the cherubic Nikol Leidman, silent except for one scream). Newlywed Keren, beached with her leg in a cast in a noisy hotel room with no ocean view, gripes and complains, until a mysterious woman jolts her to reconsider her life. Joy is stranded by not being able to speak Hebrew or German to her new, grumpy client Malka (Zharira Charifai), but they movingly discover a connection.

In addition to several women facing the long goodbye (co-director Etgar Keret also authored the novella that was the basis for the death-obsessed film Wristcutters: A Love Story), the large number of idiosyncratic and deadpan supporting characters provides amusement in contrast and comparison to the central trio. Batya goes to the police to find the little girl’s parents, but a blasé officer folds missing person reports into origami boats. Malka’s daughter plays a comatose Ophelia in an Arab director’s avant-garde production of Hamlet. And Keren’s Russian-born husband trudges up and down the hotel stairs like Sisyphus with cigarettes, contemplating the correct spelling of eternally.

Their odysseys symbolically culminate in a beautiful scene of Batya drifting in and out of consciousness between past and present, reality and imagination, seeing her life as a colorful home movie “with no plot development” because, as she declares to a lovely photographer (who was fired along with Batya), “I don’t like development.” Which seems to be intended as a tongue-in-cheek defense for all the sweetly satisfying meanderings until Jellyfish comes ashore. Nora Lee Mandel
April 4, 2008



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