DRAMA; 1hr 46min (Hebrew with subtitles)
STARRING: Shlomo Bar Aba, Lior Ashkenazi
Promised land: from left, Ashkenazi and Bar Aba
Talmud scholars are hardly the most light-hearted men but never forget the depth of still waters. Crusty Professor Eliezer Shkolnik (Bar Aba) is anti-social, humourless, stifled and begrudging. A life of painstaking research has turned him inward; although a husband and father, he’s fundamentally alone. His son, Uriel (Ashkenazi), also a professor and Talmudic authority, although with a very different perspective, is altogether fleshier and more showy. His father’s withholding ways are a challenge for Uriel to accept. But when the older man is mistakenly promised a supremely prestigious prize intended for Uriel himself, the son steps up to defend and protect his father, at severe cost.
Meltdown doesn’t begin to describe the fallout, albeit in a round-table, scholarly sense, as buried resentments flare into a round of confrontations handled by writer-director Joseph Cedar with a wry modulation that belies their momentous ramifications. The terrifically cast father and son, worlds apart yet uncomfortably close, steer resolutely through them all. Their interlinked trajectory is as mystifying as the bonds of family, and the depths to which rivalry can descend.