Disobedience

May 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Rachel McAdams, Rachel Weisz, Alessandro Nivola
Directed by: Sebastián Lelio (“A Fantastic Woman”)
Written by: Sebastián Lelio (“A Fantastic Woman”) and Rebecca Lenkiewicz (“Ida”)

After earning an Oscar this year for his compassionate foreign-language drama “A Fantastic Woman” (“Una Mujer Fantástica”), Chilean director Sebastián Lelio makes his American film debut with “Disobedience,” a seductive and mature love story between two women with ties to an Orthodox Jewish community in London.

Esti Kuperman (Oscar-nominated actress Rachel McAdams) and Ronit Krushka (Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz) have been close friends since childhood. Growing up together in the synagogue where Ronit’s father was a well-respected rabbi, their lives parted ways as young women when Ronit “disappeared” to New York to become a photographer.

Many years later, Ronit finds herself back in London to pay her respects after her father dies, although she admits she was never as close to him as he was to his students. Early on, Ronit is surprised to learn that Esti has married their mutual childhood friend Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), one of the rabbi’s prodigies. Ronit assumes it is a marriage of convenience, however, since she knows Esti, whom she has been intimate with in the past, has always been attracted to women.

Ronit’s arrival — you guessed it — reignites something inside Esti that she has kept dormant for a long time. As the two women begin to re-embrace their passion for one another, the Jewish community around them begins to stir. Already having an unfavorable opinion about Ronit for leaving her father and her faith behind, those closest to the rabbi question her motivation for returning to a society that ostracized her long ago.

Adapted from the 2006 novel of the same name by English writer Naomi Alderman, “Disobedience” is an absorbing, well-written narrative that explores the conflict between free will and religious obligation effectively and in a thought-provoking way. In Ronit, Esti and Dovid, Lelio introduces audiences to a cast of three-dimensional, adult characters who are given choices, have conversations and never overdramatize the uncomfortable situation they find themselves in. In a less capable director’s hands, a film like this would likely amount to a worn-out love triangle, but Lelio identifies the nuances within the relationships and allows them to breathe on their own. He also avoids turning the outspoken Ronit into a she-devil stock character who waltzes into Esti’s life to cause trouble like some biblical serpent — especially since the film opens with her father sermonizing on the “desires of the beast.”

While Nivola blends Dovid’s anger, empathy and disappointment perfectly, “Disobedience” belongs to McAdams and Weisz in their most provocative roles to date — from Ronit’s condemnation of Jewish traditions to Esti’s pent-up sexual frustration that she releases in one erotic afternoon. We could have done without the couple listening to The Cure’s “Lovesong” (too on the nose), but every other moment they spend together feels honest.

Gloria

February 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez, Diego Fontecilla
Directed by: Sebastian Lelio (“The Year of the Tiger”)
Written by: Gonzalo Maza (“The Year of the Tiger”) and Sebastian Lelio (“The Year of the Tiger”)

Per usual, foreign films that have been submissions to the Oscars and gathering buzz continue their late roll into the San Antonio area. The latest to hit town is Chilean submission “Gloria,” which was submitted, but not nominated or shortlisted.

As a 58-year-old divorced mother, Gloria (Paulina Garcia) is looking for more out of life. After heading out to clubs and parties, she finally meets Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez) who is recently divorced and particularly enchanted by her. As their relationship begins to flourish, they each begin to contemplate something more long-term.

Much has been made about the performance of Garcia, which is mostly warranted. It is admittedly a bold role, taking on a woman who is sexually flourishing in her late 50s, one that Garcia plays without restraint. For much of the film, it almost feels as if she’s playing the role of someone 20 years younger than the character she is portraying.

“Gloria” is best classified as a character study. Light on plot, the film revolves around a look into the daily life of its lead character. As such, the film suffers from narrative rough patches where the film becomes a little dull and uneventful. Gloria and Rodolfo’s relationship is definitely interesting at certain points, especially as it becomes more and more complicated. One of the best scenes comes at a dinner party where Gloria is reunited with her kids and ex-husband and Rodolfo is left feeling a little out of place. Even considering this as the most interesting aspect of the film, their relationship arc becomes slightly strained and repetitive.

As is with many character studies, the film can only succeed based on the allure of its lead character. As such, Gloria is often a difficult character to find wholly compelling. There’s an appeal to seeing two people start a relationship slightly past midlife, but the storyline as a whole only has moderate mileage and intrigue. As a result, the film never really excels beyond a certain level. Its egocentricity is hammered home further in the final scene, in which the leading lady dances to a famous song that shares her name. It truly reinforces that idea that your enjoyment is likely to hinge on how charmed you are by Gloria herself.