FOUR STARS Estranged by her Orthodox family, Ronit resumes a relationship with best friend Esti.
Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams
The notion that ‘you can’t go home’ is one of the themes of literature and gets a stunning work out here when estranged daughter Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns to London for her father’s funeral. Were it not for childhood friend Esti (Rachel McAdams) she wouldn’t even have known of his death, such is family and friends displeasure regarding the nature of Ronit’s estrangement. Matters don’t get any better when the two women rekindle their attraction for one another, outraging the buttoned-down Jewish community. That Esti’s husband has been tapped to take on the position of Rabbi vacated by Ronit’s late father leaves no room for sapphic love.
Sebastián Lelio directed the sensational trans-drama A FANTASTIC WOMAN to Oscar glory and is on equally fine form here. The collision of religious orthodoxy and secular free will is grist to his filmmaking mill, with leads who more than meet the challenge of his script (co-written with IDA’s Rebecca Lenkiewicz, adapting Naomi Alderman’s acclaimed novel). Here are showcase performances by Weisz and McAdams.
The beauty of DISOBEDIENCE rests in how the punishing weight of its subject matter - what price freedom - is carried by the filmmakers. It’s the kind of story that could easily slip into melodrama or have its humanity reduced to flippant hysterics. Every scene, every emotion has been purposefully hand placed to gripping effect. While swamped in melancholy, it’s an elegant production that never feels burdensome despite the burdens carried by its central cast.
Eschewing the desire to make things orderly, Lelio keeps his characters messy and troubled in accordance with the fraught core of his story - faith, desire, love; none of these are tidy emotions. While DISOBEDIENCE does not seem like a film for everyone - those outside the Jewish faith may feel they’re missing some of the subtext - it is, in fact, a universal tale. Finding the courage to step free from jail is a story we all tell at some point in our lives.
That Lelio tells it in such an unassumingly authentic fashion underlines the importance of his work.