Switched-at-birth tale ex­plored

Com­pli­cated story ex­am­ines fam­i­lies, Mid­dle East pol­i­tics.

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - By­wal­ter­ad­diego San Fran­cisco chron­i­cle Rat­ing: PG, adult themes. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 45 min­utes. The­ater: Ar­bor.

It sounds too con­trived to work: a film that plays out the ven­er­a­ble switched-at-birth plot line against the back­drop of the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict. But in “The Other Son,” French writer-di­rec­tor Lor­raine Lévy gen­er­ally suc­ceeds in cre­at­ing a com­pelling, hu­man­is­tic fam­ily drama, even if some view­ers may re­ject the movie’s fi­nal note of op­ti­mism.

Joseph ( Jules Sitruk) is an 18-year-old who lives in Tel Aviv with his French mother (Em­manuelle Devos), a doc­tor, and Is­raeli fa­ther (Pas­cal Elbé), an army of­fi­cer. A blood test re­veals that he can­not be the cou­ple’s bi­o­log­i­cal son. Dur­ing the chaos of the Gulf War, it turns out, he was switched with Yacine (played as a teen by Medhi De­hbi), the new­born son of a Pales­tinian man (Khal­ifa Na­tour), an en­gi­neer forced to earn his liv­ing as a car me­chanic, and his wife (Areen Omari).

Lévy and her co-writer, Nathalie Sau­geon, are less in­ter­ested in harp­ing on Mid­dle East­ern pol­i­tics than in ex­am­in­ing how the boys and their fam­i­lies sort out the news. Awk­ward vis­its are paid across the bor­der, while each fam­ily works in­ter­nally to make sense of the news that they have been har­bor­ing a tra­di­tional “en­emy.”

Not all of “The Other Son” is con­vinc­ing. We learn that Joseph is mu­si­cally in­clined, it turns out, just like his bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther, and Yacine has been fol­low­ing his mom’s ca­reer track. What counts most, though, is the film’s con­vic­tion that de­cency is pos­si­ble un­der dis­turb­ing cir­cum­stances, which the ac­tors clearly seem to un­der­stand. Lévy gets ex­pect­edly strong work from the veteran Devos, and out­stand­ing per­for­mances from Sitruk and De­hbi.

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