Review: Through the Wall – Laavor et hakir (2016)

Through the Wall – Laavor et hakir (2016)

Directed by: Rama Burshtein | 110 minutes | comedy, romance | Actors: Noa Koler, Ronny Merhavi, Amos Tamam, Oz Zehavi, Dafi Shoshana Alpern, Irit Sheleg, Oded Leopold, Udi Persi, Jonathan Rozen, Karin Serrouya

Thirty-year-old Michal has finally done it: after ten years of fruitless dating, she is going to get married. The hall is booked, the food is tasted and of course there is also a fiancé. Nothing wrong with that, until that fiancé decides it’s best to end the relationship. What now? Against all logic, Michal decides to go through with the wedding preparations, hoping that God will help her find a suitable husband.

Does this sound like the plot of a fun comedy? Then that is half true. ‘Through the Wall’ (that’s the name of the film) is occasionally fun and the film sometimes looks like a comedy. The only problem is that the decor is a bit less mundane: the world of Jewish orthodoxy. Michal is a religious girl and her renegade fiancé and her future dates are all from this milieu. The religious element of this comedy is never far off.

The bigger problem is that we don’t always know whether a scene is meant to be witty or not. The film starts with a scene with a psychologist who enriches her therapy with all kinds of foods. Hilarious, until you start to wonder if it might be commonplace within those religious circles, and therefore not funny at all. Also, we have no idea whether the symbolism of the ‘blind’ and the ‘deaf’ date stems from a religious strain.

Yet that unfamiliarity with Jewish orthodoxy is also one of the film’s charms. Although we don’t understand it all, it is intriguing. We have no idea who Rabbi Nachmann was, but we do understand something of what is happening around his shrine. And those Jewish marriages are another special case, with rituals that are as beautiful as they are incomprehensible.

Another reason to see this film is Noa Koler in the role of Michal. Her religious motives may be obscure, her desire for a partner, for completeness, for happiness, we understand all too well. Koler is convincing in Michal’s cheerfulness as well as in her moods of depression and despair.

‘Through the Wall’ never wants to be a full-blooded comedy and we don’t see it as a masterpiece either. But this intriguing and cheerful Israeli film offers more than enough for over an hour and a half of entertainment. For religious and secular.

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