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

Dana Ivgy as Or
Photo: Kino

Directed by: Keren Yedaya.
Produced by: Marek Rozenbaum, Itai Tamir, Emmanuel Agneray & Jérôme Bleitrach.
Written by: Keren Yedaya & Sari Ezouz.
Director of Photography: Laurent Brunet.
Edited by: Sari Ezouz.
Released by: Kino.
Language: Hebrew with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: Israel/France. 100 min. Not Rated.
With: Ronit Elkabetz & Dana Ivgy.

Here, an Israeli mother and daughter relationship is reversed. Teenager Or (Dana Ivgy) reassures and looks after her mother, fortyish Ruthie (Ronit Elkabetz), who's more like a teenager, wearing too-tight, garish clothes, exposing much midriff. After a recuperating Ruth returns from the hospital for being "a bit depressed," Or, when she's away at school, locks Ruthie within their small and cluttered apartment to ensure she doesn't resort again to prostitution. And in the morning, Or wakes her up, urging her to arrive on time at her new job as a housecleaner. But after a short time scrubbing floors, Ruthie falls back again on her old way of life, creeping out of the apartment at night, getting drunk, and having an anonymous tryst on the street. The rent being now past due, Ruthie offers herself to the landlord. He passes; he has his eyes on the attractive Or.

Both of the lead performances are candidly remarkable. The actresses share a casual intimacy; Ruthie and Or shower together, while washing their clothes in the stall as they engage in small talk. The camera is static, capturing daily activities as Or and Ruthie drift in and out of frame, though many of the one-take scenes, such as Or washing dishes at her after school job, become redundant. At first, the film may seem dispassionate, but that is not the case. The audience will no doubt be alarmed at the decisions Or will eventually make. At which point, when Or follows in her mother's footsteps, the camera effectively reflects her point of view.

Director/writer Keren Yedaya's prevents her film from being schematic, offering a complex view of sex and class. It's abundantly clear that Or behaves the way that she does because of how she was raised, out of love for her ailing mother, and perhaps because of how she sees herself. When the mother of her boyfriend tells both Or and Ruthie that, in so many words, Or isn't good enough for her son, Ruthie too readily acquiesces and Or complies. In following Or's entry into the sex trade, Yedaya offers no facile explanations, which may be frustrating to some, but bluntly thought provoking to others. Kent Turner
May 26, 2005



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