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Menashe review – father-son character study is a bittersweet treat | Drama films | The Guardian

Menashe movie review

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This terrifyingly authentic look at life within New York’s Yiddish-speaking Hasidic community is a bittersweet treat: a vibrantly engaging portrait of realistic lives that’s warm, funny, and ultimately very moving. A million miles away from peripherally comparable films like Sidney Lumet’s A Stranger Among Us or Boaz Yakin’s A Price Above Rubies, Joshua Z Weinstein’s feature-length fiction debut gets right into the skin of his characters, gently unraveling themes of social conformity and religious responsibility with wistful wit and wry, tragicomic insight.

populated by first-time artists playing familiar roles, it blends the poetry of john cassavetes with the grit of ken loach, along with a touch of cultural intimacy that rama burshtein brought to fill the void and through the wall.

Widower Menashe (Menashe Lustig) works in a grocery store in the Orthodox Hasidic Community of the Brooklyn District Park District. A disheveled but adorably goofy presence, he cares for his clients but irritates his boss, who finds his usual unhappiness infuriating. Since the death of Menashe’s wife, his beloved son Rieven (Ruben Niborski) has been living with his most successful uncle, in keeping with tradition that a child should grow up in a two-parent home. . Menashe is in no hurry to remarry (“nothing will ever be the same”), but only when he finds a mate will she be allowed to resume his parental duties. As his wife’s memorial dinner approaches, our big-hearted anti-hero sees an opportunity to prove himself to the community: cook a proper meal, prove he’s “a man,” and hopefully get his son back. in the process.

With his mocking expression and disheveled appearance, Menashe has the air of an accidental rebel, a spark of chaos in the midst of a rigidly ordered world. “Why don’t my uncle and my teacher like you?” Rieven questions his father, getting to the heart of a problem that the devout but unorthodox menashe has lost the respect of his peers. as the rabbi tells him about him, the talmud says that the key to happiness is threefold: “a good wife, a good house, good dishes”. However, Menashe refuses to play ball, throwing obstacles in the way of a new match (“You’re not my type”), thus sabotaging her chances of winning the child back from him. Yet beyond the shrugging stubbornness, he lurks in wait for something more vulnerable: a guilty weight that rests behind menashe’s twinkling eyes.

Inspired by his protagonist’s personal life (lustig is a widowed shopkeeper whose stories the screenplay is loosely based on), weinstein draws on his experience as a documentary filmmaker to conjure up a drama rooted in the reality of these characters and their community. . Long lenses add true realism to the street scenes, placing this story firmly within the thriving community of municipal parks, offering a glimpse into a world that has often been hidden. “Hasidic life in borough park has many similarities to how my great-grandparents lived outside warsaw,” said weinstein, emphasizing his desire to achieve “a better understanding [of] me and my ancestors” and allow an “audience of outsiders” “share moments of their daily lives that are rarely seen”.

for all its cultural specificity, menashe tells a universal story about a father-son relationship. As Rieven, debutante Niborski is a miraculous discovery, his expressive face and lanky limbs perfectly embody the conflicts of a young man torn between love for his father and an equally pressing need for stability. Not surprisingly, juggling has become Rieven’s favorite pastime, a metaphor as heightened as the presence of the newly hatched chick whose fate serves as a commentary on Menashe’s parenting skills. Unsurprisingly, Weinstein cites the Dardenne brothers’ Boy with a Bicycle and Vittorio de Sica’s Bicycle Thieves as reference texts, along with Robert Benton’s perennial tearjerker Kramer vs. Kramer.

Prayer meeting scenes have an understated immediacy, while a sequence in which Menashe drinks with his Hispanic co-workers seems poignantly truthful. A sparse, whining score by Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist (interspersed with bursts of spontaneous song) lends it an air of yearning, subtly implying transcendence amidst these everyday tribulations. weinstein ends on an ambiguous note, after which i am left with memories of menashe teaching her son to roar like a lion and watching him play as twilight fell over these streets: haunting and beautiful, full of laughter and sadness. /p>

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