Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
Writers: Naomi Alderman (novel), Sebastián Lelio (adaptation)
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Rachel Weisz and Alessandro Nivola
Genre: Drama, Romance
4 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
‘Disobedience’ is about two people who’ve always cared for one another and having those feelings returned, no matter who it is and no matter their gender, is a heavenly thing. It’s an exceptional film in every way it needed to be. Director of the Academy Award-winning ‘A Fantastic Woman,’ Sebastián Lelio, is aware that one particular scene might offend or make some audience members uncomfortable but took a risk and ended up creating a spectacular and gorgeous ode to love.
It’s a beautiful story and the two actresses saddled with making it come to life, Rachel McAdams (Esti Kuperman) and Rachel Weisz (Ronit), are powerful in their performances. They’re acting so strong, you never once question their affection for one another. Their lovemaking so real and sizzling that as a woman watching you might question your own sexuality! I jest, but what I mean by that is you’ll fall in love with what you’re witnessing and you’ll treasure their bond.
‘Disobedience tells the story of a complicated subject and Lelio handles the task exquisitely. It’s very passionate and loving, something key to making it work. One way of accomplishing this is Lelio’s decision to make simple gestures seem colossal, not hard to do because his sets were so small they felt almost claustrophobic. This kept the actors close and the tension level high. There is so much attention paid to detail that what’s going on is unmistakable, however, Lelio keeps you guessing at what’s going to happen in the end. He plays with your emotions so often you’ll feel as if you’re on a rollercoaster.
In the beginning, we meet Ronit, a photographer who’s living in New York. We find out that her father, a Rabbi in London has died. She goes to London to be with his followers and old friends and finds a cold reception that at first confuses you. She is no longer of their faith, which could be the reason, but you know there’s more to the story. Enter her old friends Dovid (Nivola) and Esti Kuperman to slowly fill in some gaps. The pacing is slow but it’s important that it is for you to get to know the world Ronit freely chose to leave. After about the fifteen-minute mark it picks up momentum and keeps a steady clip. You’ll be appreciative of having the build up as you’re now becoming intimately involved in the characters and this very close friendship of three.
When Ronit learns that her friends have married, she’s upset and asks why she wasn’t told. But like everything to do with her father and his estate, she’s met with excuses and a chill. She runs into this everywhere she goes during her visit except from one person, Esti. Esti is a teacher, and very devoted, but you can tell that she isn’t happy. With her daily tasks, even being with Dovid, she’s going through the motions.
The movie is riddled with messages the writer and director want you to hear. Several scenes stand out as being particularly heavy with them. One is set during a dinner with the family where Ronit questions the rules their religion places on women, which turns out to be the overall theme of the movie is itself. Women are made to feel they’re not equal to men, they can’t make their own decisions, they have to wear wigs, they must have sex with their husbands on Fridays and have children. Ronit had to escape this patriarchal society, which is understandable, but why did Esti stay? A tactic of the community is to make you afraid of the future and the unknown. Without your family and the hamlet in which you live, what will you have later in life when you are old? Fear didn’t work on Ronit but kept Esti there. With Ronit home again, is this Esti’s chance to finally be herself?
Finding time alone, the two women kiss and you fully grasp just how much Ronit has been missed; how much Esti’s heart has ached for her return. They decide to turn that kiss into some time spent in a hotel where the women make love for the first time without shame and fear of being caught. What may strike you most is how Esti is liberated when Ronit pulls off her wig, signifying a turning point in her life. As I mentioned, it’s the little things Lelio captures that make the moment genuinely affectionate. The women now face a decision on what the future will behold. Where does Dovid fit into the bigger picture? Is he aware of them and does he grow during this process? I recommend you see this at the theatre to find out and be sheathed in the life of these women. Though you will leave the theatre wishing there had been more Ronit and Esti, you’ll be fascinated by who you got to meet in this period of time.
*Playing in Phoenix Exclusively at Harkins Camelview Fashion Square
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