CURZON ARTIFICIAL EYE (2018)

 

Director: Sebastián Lelio

 

Starring: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola

Love will tear us apart.

 

From Sebastián Lelio, acclaimed director of Gloria and A Fantastic Woman, comes Disobedience – his third movie in a row that focuses on women, their struggles, repression and/or release. An Academy Award winner, Lelio has become one of the better filmmakers outside of Hollywood and Disobedience marked his first English-language full-length feature. Pairing Rachels Weisz and McAdams isn’t a bad start for any movie either…

The movie focuses on Ronit Krushka (Weisz) who flies back to North London, and the Orthodox Jewish community of her childhood, after the death of her estranged father. She fled the community years before due to her romance with Esti (McAdams) and has been looked down on ever since. Esit is now married to Rabbi Dovid Kuperman (Nivola), however, when Ronit rolls back into town, their furiously repressed desires for once another return in the face of their highly-strung religious community. It’s the triangle that connects these three characters that propels Disobedience along and how each action affects the other inextricably.

 

A character study first and foremost, Disobedience follows Naomi Alderman’s novel of the same name and explores the confines of sexuality and faith. A drama through and through, Lelio takes his time setting up the characters and the struggles that each one of them faces in their lives – all revolving around those two aspects…faith and love. The sneers and disapproving looks from everyone that Ronit encounters works far more effectively than words could and McAdams silent repression is portrayed excellently. Weisz, too, is first-rate as the more insubordinate of the two (disobedient, you could say…) whilst Nivola has a nice restraint in his performance as he is caught in the middle. Lelio captures the two sides of love wonderfully well – Esti and Dovid’s routine, robotic marriage (including non-mandatory sex on Friday) and the pent-up passion that swells between Ronit and Esti. The love between the two women is never portrayed as schoolgirl frivolities or OTT- erotica, it falls right in the middle, perfectly balanced. When they finally get to act on their impulses, the scene is fraught with unbridled desire, a real explosion of passion and it’s photographed and framed beautifully. That’s how you do it, Fifty Shades

 

This is a slow, pensive movie that makes no bones about taking its time to get where it needs to be. It’s very contemplative and soul-searching and above all, it’s earnest. It doesn’t glorify its sexual elements, not demean any religious aspects, Disobedience simply tells the story of two women left with their unfulfilled needs and desires and how they deal and strive to resolve – a question that spreads further than simply North London and Judaism. Can they give everything up for each other? What sacrifices would need to be made? Is freedom the answer? All questions that are raised and tenderly answered whilst also providing some effective, heartfelt moments that will hit you in the heartstrings. Disobedience makes the most of its source material and two fine leading ladies to deliver a modest yet undeniably affecting tale of repressed love and passion.

December 17th 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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