Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
Written by: Sebastián Lelio, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Produced by: Frida Torresblanco, Ed Guiney and Rachel Weisz
Starring: Rachel Weizs,Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola.
With Disobedience as the title, we know that we are about to enter forbidden territory, and for many of us including me, that is an irresistible destination; especially when the disobedience involves forbidden love.
While this is a story of love, delving into its yearnings, its confusions, its pain and its flashes of carnal delight, this movie is so much more than a love story.
Estranged from her Rabbi father, Ronit (Rachel Weizs) is heartsick when she learns of his death. Immediately walking out on her photographic career in Manhattan, Ronit flies back to the Jewish enclave in North London she fled so long ago. Once there, she is hesitantly welcomed into the home of her two former best friends Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and Esti (Rachel McAdams), a devout pair who have since married, but the self-assured Ronit, with her free-flowing hair, New York chutzpah and extreme nicotine attachment, is still desperately bereft at her father’s disavowal of his only daughter.
With her own feelings torn and wondering whether she was loved, Ronit continues to rebel.
Even if this movie seems restrained by today’s salacious standards, there is an almost shocking sense of intimacy as the camera shifts in angle to take in some very private moments in the marriage of the ultra-orthodox Dovid and the dutiful Esti.
Looking down on her husband asleep after their lovemaking, Esti is confronted by an oblivious, hairy body tangled in the bed clothes; whereas Dovid, bursting into the bathroom, glimpses his wife as a misty, insubstantial spirit emerging from a cubist mirage amid the steam and the patterns created by their white shower curtain.
While the main story flows along with a satisfying emotional arc, this beautifully nuanced narrative is told in deep point of view, through looks and gestures as much as dialogue, with the depths of the story revealed through the intricately wrought mise en scène.
One of the first intimations of the sensuous undercurrents frothing and bubbling beneath the surface is a still life in the style of a Dutch old master painting, with a cantaloupe, lavishly encircled by ripe nectarines, cut open to expose the delicate flesh of its interior. While the camera lingers for barely a moment, this minor element is in rich counterpoint to the austere meal being stolidly consumed in the foreground.
Soon after, Dovid will ask the study group he leads, ‘Is it all about sensuality? I thought true love was about something higher.’ At this point his question is purely academic. Dovid believes he has found the answer, but he doesn’t even know question, yet.
In this layered drama, we are invited to experience an ancient code, to share in moments of exquisite beauty and the price that must be paid for inclusion: as one woman is cast as the good girl, the other as the bad (at least, in their own minds), and a husband learns about the agonising sacrifice he must make for the truth.
Are some relationships and some beliefs more legitimate than others? This movie looks intensely, engages passionately, but carefully refrains from judging.