21 February, 2012

AJFF: "The Flood" (****)

Michael Moshonov and Yoav Rotman star in "The Flood"
A good film is even better when it wasn't on your radar to begin with. Although I had heard of "Mabul" (released here as "The Flood"), my knowledge was limited. Perhaps it got lost in the wave of strong films that came out of Israel in 2010, featuring the likes of "The Human Resources Manager," "Intimate Grammar" and "The Matchmaker."

"The Flood" is one of the most visually distinct Israeli films to be made in the last couple of years. While I'm unsure of where it comes from, the film possesses a distinctly American sensibility. Doing some research, I discovered that the director of photography is actually French and the bulk of the crew seems to be Israeli. The American vibe is probably encouraged by the use of an eclectic soundtrack (I'm pretty sure I caught a Fleet Foxes song somewhere in there). Regardless of where the film attributes it's style, it has it in spades. There is a lot of colorful wide shot composition that is unique among current Israeli releases.

Led by one of the best child performances in recent memory, the cast is in top form. Yoav Rotman plays Yoni Roshko, a boy struggling with less than attentive parents and a personal obsession with his own physical growth as he prepares for his Bar Mitzvah. When the care facility housing his autistic brother is forced to shut down, his family scrambles to fit Tomer (Michael Moshonov, who won a second Ophir Award for the role) back into their daily lives. Shmil Ben Ari and Ronit Elkabetz are both great as the parents, but Elkabetz shines. One of the biggest names in Israel, she possesses a spark that I can only compare to other performers like Cate Blanchett or Viola Davis. Can Israel please share her with America?

The movie looses a bit of steam right at the end and succumbs to a slight bit of schmaltz. Nonetheless, some beautiful cinematography and a great ensemble make this a strong addition into the cannon of modern Israeli film and an easy sell to American cinemas.

4 out of 5 stars.

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