Monday, May 21, 2018


Sebastian Lelio’s Disobedience is set in the world of London’s  Orthodox Jewish community. But the revelation that's one of the film’s themes is hardly one of a religious sort. Sexual identity is the lingua franca and it's when Esti (Rachel McAdams) expresses hers that she runs awry of the values of the fundamentalist community in which she lives. Of course sex is a gigantic topic and the movie actually avoids the danger of becoming a reductio ad absurdum. Ronit (Rachel Weisz) the rabbi’s daughter, who has turned her back on the cloistered life, provides the catalyst for the movie’s stereotypic energy. But to the director’s credit she along with Esti husband, the rabbi Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) all break away from their prescribed roles to credit the movie with a certain humanity. The film begins with the exhortation, “Hashem gave us choice which is both a privilege and burden” and ends in just about the same place. The more profound problem is that the narrative ties all the loose ends together with a Solomonic justice which is hard to buy, considering all the passions that have been unleashed. If there's an overriding emotion it’s that of equanimity, a sentiment that some viewers may find hard to square, with the terrain of the  subliminal desires Disobedience describes. Spoiler alert: the film's initial triangulation becomes a kind 21st century trinity.

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