Posted by martinteller on May 27, 2012
Three stories from Tel Aviv. Keren (Noa Knoller), a newlywed, broke her ankle escaping from a toilet stall, and now she and her husband are stuck in an unsatisfying hotel room instead of their planned honeymoon in the Caribbean. Joy (Ma-nenita De Latorre) is a Filipino caretaker, looking after an elderly woman with whom she shares no common language, and coping with separation from her young son back home. And then there’s Batia (Sarah Adler), recently split from her boyfriend, a catering waitress who meets a silent little girl who apparently came out of the sea. Writer/director husband/wife team Shiri Geffen and Etgar Keret (both Israeli authors of some renown) hook together the threads in slight ways, but this is not an Iñárritu-esque conceit. It’s not important that their lives intertwine, but rather it’s three riffs on the theme of loneliness.
I wouldn’t blame someone for finding the film shallow and/or manipulative. There is nothing hugely complex or groundbreaking about Geffen & Keret’s take on the subject. But sometimes a movie just pushes your buttons in all the right ways. The mix of magic realism (which, depending on your interpretation, might be simply realism), melancholy tones, poetic moments, sympathetic characters and gentle aesthetics strikes all the right notes with me. I can’t point to a single performance I don’t love (okay, maybe the catering manager). The film’s visuals are wonderfully balanced and provide memorable images, and the music is lovely. It’s a film I find deeply satisfying, despite a few bits that I acknowledge are a little too clever.
There are a number of facets I find very interesting. As a Ming-liang Tsai (I can never decide whether to use the western or eastern way of writing his name) fan, I’m entranced by the use of water. Besides forming a basis for the boat motif and the jellyfish idea, it seeps Tsai-like into Batia’s apartment and the sea serves as an important element in her background. The sea also both taunts and comforts the newlywed couple. It’s also intriguing how each of these stories involves an intermediary person to connect people to others. The girl connects Batia to her past and her new friend, Joy serves as a surrogate for the daughter her client can’t seem to bond with, Keren and her husband come together through their experiences with the writer. One more thing I picked up on, though I’m not sure yet what to make of it. Several times in the dialogue, a character will refer to someone with the vague pronoun “she” or “her” and another will respond “Who?”, often because the character is thinking of a different person at the moment. It happens about four or five times. Whether this has significance or is merely a peculiar writing habit of the authors I can’t say, but it’ll give me something to ponder the next time. Rating: Great