Stars: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola
Based on the novel by Naomi Alderman, Chilean director Lelio’s follow-up to his dazzling and stirring transgender character study ‘A Fantastic Woman’ is more low-key and sombre, but no less a nuanced and empathetic piece. Weisz is Ronit, an edgy NYC-based photographer who is returning home to London, and the closed Orthodox Jewish community in which she was raised, for the funeral of her father. She receives a chilly reception on arrival at the family home, even from her close childhood friend and late father’s chosen successor Dovid (Nivola), who is now a rabbi. Ronit is shocked that Dovid has married Esti (McAdams), the third of her trio of close childhood friends. Later Ronit’s frustration at being kept in the dark about the state of her father’s health comes out during a Sabbat dinner, where the conciliatory Dovid tries to diffuse the situation. The shy, dowdy Esti is initially upset that Dovid has offered to put her estranged childhood friend up at their house, but the chill between the two women begins to thaw slightly in an extraordinary scene where they chance across The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’ playing on the radio and begin to dance. Eschewing a reductive outsider versus oppressive religious system narrative, this is an intense, understated study of desire and devotion that sees director Lelio elegantly teasing out the details of the trio’s relationship through telling glances and subtle gestures, with the trio of leads, particularly Nivola as the fundamentally decent but conflicted Dovid, turning in possibly career best performances.