Friday, April 11, 2008

Jellyfish (Meduzot) ISRAELI

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Women’s Lives Whimsically Intertwine in Serendipitous Israeli Adventure

In recent years, some of the most intriguing, feminist dramas have been coming out of Israel. The character-driven Nina’s Tragedies and Close to Home come immediately to mind. You can now add Jellyfish to that impressive list, a surreal adventure which whimsically intertwines the lives of several women whose paths crisscross in present-day Tel Aviv.
The fulcrum of the plot is provided by the plight of heartsick Batya (Sarah Adler), a waitress working at the wedding of Karen (Noa Knoller) and Michael (Gera Sandler). Shortly past the point of departure, we learn that the couple’s plans for a Caribbean honeymoon are ruined when the bride breaks her ankle after accidentally locking herself in a bathroom.
So, they opt to take a room right on the ground floor of the beachfront hotel hosting their reception. Supportive Michael soon finds himself waiting hand and foot on his suddenly whiny wife, and it’s obvious that he must be more than a little annoyed with her when he has his head turned by the flirtatious poet staying in the penthouse.
Elsewhere, we find Joy (Ma-nenita De Latorre), a homesick nurse missing the five year-old son she had to leave behind in her native Philippines. It doesn’t help any that although she asked to be assigned childcare because she doesn’t speak any Hebrew, her agency hired her out to Malka (Zaharira Harifai), an elderly woman who is not only grouchy, but bigoted to boot. Despite Joy’s exhibiting the patience of a saint, Malka would prefer to live with her daughter, an actress busily preparing to appear in a production of Hamlet directed by an Arab.
These assorted threads are woven together ever so subtly via the meanderings of Batya, a forlorn soul who besides being left by her boyfriend has had the rent recently raised on her dilapidated apartment. The carefree slacker reacts by drinking water dripping from a hole in the ceiling, and by adopting a naked, freckle-faced, five year-old (Nikol Leidman) she finds frolicking alone along the Mediterranean shore.
But after bonding, Batya becomes frantic when the mute little girl disappears almost as mysteriously as she had arrived. Then, back at the resort, jealousy rears its ugly head as Karen starts to wonder why her husband’s new friend has so generously offered to swap rooms.
In Jellyfish, always of more consequence than the give-and-take of any of the superficial personal dramas are the complicated cultural and psychological issues simmering just under the surface. Like Amelie with an attitude, this sinister flick links strangers serendipitously, but with an almost shocking absence of naivete.

Excellent (4 stars)
In Hebrew, French and English with subtitles.
Running time: 78 minutes
Studio: Zeitgeist Films

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