Posted April 10, 2012 by D. K. Holm
Mabul, the lead off film for the20th Portland Jewish Film Festival, walks a fine line between soap opera and art house drama. Guy Nattiv’s film from 2011 is about a family in crisis and conflict. Yoni (Yoav Rotman) is bullied at school, sells homework to his peers, and is trying to grow faster and bigger physically with the help of bodybuilder formula drinks, and even deepen his voice so as to protect himself. He is also about to be “bar mitzvahed.” His dad Gidi (Tzachi Grad) is a pilot suspended from working for drunkenness. Gidi’s alienated wife Miri (Elkabetz) runs a daycare center, and is having an affair with one of her “dads.” In addition, Yoni develops something of a crush on the daughter of the rabbi training him for the upcoming ceremony.
Into this volatile mix returns Tomer (Michael Moshonov), the couple’s apparently autistic son, ejected from an institution going out of business, where he has been housed for 12 years, and which incarceration caused Miri to suffer a three-month nervous breakdown. Tomer is unresponsive; is fascinated by bugs and animals; and seems to be utterly unsocialized, living in a world of his own, but able to recite long passages from the Torah, especially from the story of Noah. Mabul means “The Flood,” and is an expansion of co-writer Noa Berman-Herzberg’s short film, and the “flood” that pours over the characters and consumes them is the secrets they all keep, which are unleashed when Tomer returns. The affair is revealed, which turns out to be also the cause for one student’s bullying; Yoni’s homework racket is exposed; and Gidi admits that despite leaving everyday for the air field, he has been unemployed for six months.
Mabul is a well-done domestic drama with no evident political overtones and few religious elements, and at times beautiful photography. It is well acted by the entire cast, and with its seaside setting is so anonymous that the story could take place anywhere from Jane Campion’s Australia to Fellini’s Italy. Some viewers may come away thinking that the traumas are piled on the poor characters; others may find little difference between the soap opera elements and upbeat ending of Mabul and a typical Lifetime Channel TV movie. Mabul may be a mixed bag, but the film has a consistent tone and a sense of emotional maturity and realism.
Mabul plays at the Northwest Film Center at 7 PM, Sunday, April 15, 2012.