DIS­OBE­DI­ENCE

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - NEWS - BARRY HERTZ

This past week­end, I paid an over­due visit to the Toronto Jewish Film Fes­ti­val. (2018 slo­gan: “It’s com­pli­cated.” Oy, the shticky hu­mour of this fes­ti­val.) While the film I hap­pened to catch – Mikael Buch’s smallscale drama Si­mon & Theodore – was fine enough, I would have paid dou­ble to sim­ply wit­ness the au­di­ence re­ac­tion to an­other TJFF se­lec­tion: Se­bas­tian Le­lio’s taboo-bust­ing ro­mance, Dis­obe­di­ence.

The film, which opens in lim­ited re­lease this week­end, is a won­der­fully sen­su­ous and de­lib­er­ately provoca­tive look at what hap­pens when Lon­don pho­tog­ra­pher Ronit (Rachel Weisz) re­turns to the strict Ortho­dox Jewish com­mu­nity that once shunned her. The rea­son for the ex­ile? That would be Ronit’s at­trac­tion to her friend, the now-mar­ried Esti (Rachel McAdams). Dis­obe­di­ence marks the first English-lan­guage film for Chilean di­rec­tor Le­lio – whose trans­gen­der ro­mance, A Fan­tas­tic Woman, re­cently won the Academy Award for best foreign-lan­guage film – and it is also his most af­fect­ing work. Early scenes are al­most too heavy to bear, in terms of the re­pres­sion both women face – even the muted colours of their North Lon­don sur­round­ings are seem­ingly de­signed to drown their de­sires in dull­ness – but when the pair get the op­por­tu­nity to face each other one-on-one, the en­ergy is re­lent­less.

A cheap and easy way to sum­ma­rize Dis­obe­di­ence’s stand­out scene would be Blue Is the Warm­est Color meets A Price Above Ru­bies (or, as the di­rec­tor him­self quipped, “Jew is the Warm­est Colour”), but Le­lio’s film is about more than sex, or its per­haps easy abil­ity to shock. It is a love story, as beau­ti­ful as it is dev­as­tat­ing.

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