Film review: THE OTHER SON, from Built For Speed
Despite its minimalist plot and the fact that it is set within the crucible of Arab-Israeli tension on the West Bank, French film The Other Son manages to deliver a warm, sensitive and moving family drama that lingers in the memory.
When Israeli teenager Joseph (Jules Sitruk) applies for military service he discovers that his blood type does not match his parents. A hospital reveals that he was accidentally switched at birth with another baby and his real family are Palestinian’s Said and Leila al Bezaaz (Arren Omari and Khalifa Natour) who live on the West Bank. Similarly, Palestinian medical student Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi) learns that he is actually Jewish and that Joseph’s parents Orith (Emmanuelle Devos) and Israeli army colonel Alon (Pascal Elbe) are in fact his.
Almost the entire film is spent exploring the aftermath of this revelation: Joseph’s existential crisis at losing his Jewish identity, Yacine’s sudden ostracism by his brother Bilal and the parents’ confusion at how to respond to the news. Attempts at rapprochement between the families initially seem doomed as lunch meetings devolve into bitter arguments between the angry, authoritarian Fathers about the Israeli occupation. The two mothers and the misplaced sons, however, appear more open to discussion.
Director Lorraine Levy’s depiction of bitter enemies finding common ground is hopeful and at times simplistic but still emotionally affecting. The two young men are depicted as decent and likeable people caught up in a tragic situation. In a believable matter of fact style, the film starkly compares their two worlds, Yacine’s poor, rugged Palestinian village and Joseph’s upscale home and life of beach-side indolence in Tel Aviv.
With its slender plot, though, The Other Son is like a short film stretched to feature length and as a result, there’s some padding and a tendency for the film to cruise along at a leisurely pace. Strangely, the film also leaves plot threads dangling such as Joseph and Racine’s respective relationships with two girls.
The quality of the performances from the entire cast, however, more than makes up for the script’s limitations. Mehdi Dehbi credibly portrays Yacine as an intelligent, reasonable and conscientious person while Jules Sitruk makes Joseph believable as an easy-going young guy struggling with a deep and painful issue. Best of all, though, are Emmanuelle Devos and Areen Omari as the Israeli and Palestinian mothers respectively, who both deliver powerful, nuanced and convincing performances.
Nick’s rating: Three and a half stars.
Director(s): Lorraine Levy
Release date: 18th April 2013
Running time: 105 mins.