Cinema Signal:

The Woman from Mossad:
The Story of Mordechai Vanunu & the Israeli Nuclear Program

. "Broken Wings" (aka, Knafayim Shvurot)

The winner of nine prizes at the Israeli Academy Awards and a hit in its home country, Israel, this is the story of a family that appears to define the term, dysfunctional. A mother who is more than a little distracted strives hard to fulfill her parental duties, caring for four children who are a study in rebelliousness, escapism and anger. Torment and misery stretches patience to the point of annoyance until its source is finally revealed, at which point our sympathies are ignited.

Dafna (Orly Silbersatz Banai), a struggling mother who can't quite catch up to her debts despite meeting all the demands of her job as a midwife in a local hospital, manages to provide the needs of her two boys and two girls, though barely. Seventeen year-old Maya (Maya Maron) is a singer-writer who might be on the cusp of discovery as a rock artist were it not for the demands of keeping the family together when Dafna doesn't seem able to. The obligatory compromises leads to disaffection in the relationship and an unnatural sullenness.

Maya's troubled twin brother Yair (Nitai Gaviratz) is a study in denial as he insists that the people in his world are unreal, unimportant, or non existent. School and his scholastic promise are becoming more and more meaningless, along with a rejection of basketball, the sport in which he's been a rising star.

Rebellious misbehavior is perhaps most shockingly depicted when young Ido (Daniel Magon) gives physical expression to his desire to fly by jumping into an empty concrete pool and nearly breaking his neck. Perhaps a death wish? And, finally, little Bahr (Eliana Magon, Daniel's actual sister), is left on her own to wrestle with the burdens of adjusting to a world that's difficult to comprehend.

The crosscurrent of problems afflicting the family and their efforts to cope tend to break down some of the attitudinal isolation, occasionally introducing humor into the mix. Dafna sees something of a silver lining in a developing relationship with a doctor (Vladimir Friedman) while her courageous perseverence demands our respect and caring. Maya's confusion of emotions and aims take shape under the affection and loyalty she receives from friends and family. Yair's meet-up with an old girlfriend brings out the essential sweetness of his personality and develops some hope for self re-discovery.

But, the smoldering bomb in this movie goes off when we discover that this is a family stunned into extreme distress by the tragic death of a father 9 months previously. We now understand. The character and value shifts, self doubts, defiance, personality disorders, and neuroses are symptoms of grief. The dynamics are suddenly explicable and moving and become a powerful statement about loss and the difficulty of adjusting to it.

Writer-director Nir Bergman's emotional thickets are well realized by a fine ensemble cast that takes its time to hook you into total concern. The central relationship between mother and daughter is finely tuned to reality and is a layered portrayal of interdependence and sacrifice even as they are being most severely tested. These players collectively demonstrate what a fatality takes away from the natural course of one's life.

It's almost surprising that a story with such human relevance can come to us without a single reference to the politics that pervade the Haifa locations and generally embattled Israeli life. But, the strict avoidance of any reference to matters outside the family circle makes it a universal metaphor for all families traumatized by catastrophic loss, from natural causes or violent ones.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Maya Maron: wings without flight

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