27 February, 2012

AJFF: "My Lovely Sister" (***1/2)

Moshe Ivgy and Evelin Hagoel star in "My Lovely Sister"

"My Lovely Sister" is a colorful film by Marco Carmel about a family of Moroccan-Israeli Jews, an under-represented commodity in Israeli cinema. The movie's exotic flavor comes complete with sun-baked contrast, textured music and beautiful performances. Evelin Hagoel, as the film's lead, gives one the best performances I've seen at this year's Atlanta Jewish Film Festival for which she deservedly won an Ophir Award for Best Actress.

Hagoel isn't the only great actress in the film, though. Reymond Amsalem also won an Ophir Award for Best Supporting Actress. The chemistry between the two, who play sisters, is dynamite. After Marie (Amsalem, the younger sister) dies, Rahma (Hagoel) is forced to reconcile her unresolved issues surrounding Marie's marriage to an Arab fisherman. The movie's magical realism plays as smoothly as a Gabriel GarcĂ­a Marquez novel, making no fuss over of Rahma's superstition or her interaction with the late Marie. Moshe Ivgy is also wonderful as Robert, Rahma's husband and longtime admirer of Marie.

The film has a very personal tone. Authentic performances and a lot of close-up camerawork invites us into a close relationship with each of the main players. There is a purposeful lack of focus on set details, which only adds more emphasis on the audience's connection with the characters.

I first saw the trailer for "My Lovely Sister" months ago and was struck by the gorgeous music. Not knowing whether the music was original to the film or taken from another source, I waited patiently until the film screened at the festival. I was pleased to hear that the same piece is used both at the beginning of the film and towards the end, nearly bringing tears to my eyes both times. Composer Avi Belleli is an incredible talent. The music is lush and perfectly tailored to film's Moroccan sensibility. I was sad to see that his work here didn't win the Ophir Award for Best Score, but Belleli only lost the prize to himself, with his score for "Restoration" (which I will talk about later).

With some of the finest music and performances out of Israel this past year, I really enjoyed "My Lovely Sister." The film's vivid beauty and atmosphere provide a nice deviation from its contemporaries.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

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