Starring Sarah Adler, Nikol Leidman, Gera Sandler, Noa Knoller, Ma-nenita De Latorre, Zharira Charifai, Ilanit Ben Yaakov, Assi Dayan and Miri Fabian.
Screenplay by Shira Geffen.
Directed by Etgar Keret & Shira Geffen.
Distributed by Zeitgeist Films. 78 minutes. Not Rated.
This charming and quirky little Israeli slice-of-life has been opening some eyes, winning the Palm D’Or for best first-time feature at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Directed with surprising sure-footedness by respected husband and wife writers Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, Jellyfish (Meduzot) shows the two are extremely talented in yet another venue.
I can see this film being big in Cannes, because it has a very French cinema vibe to it — and that is probably not just because there is some French money behind the production. Just the style and acting and the subject matter all feel very at one with French themes. There is even a Hebrew recording of “La Vie En Rose” which is repeated a few times throughout the running time of the film.
Perhaps the most amazing thing is that Jellyfish takes place in modern Tel Aviv and there is no real reference to or acknowledgement of all the Middle East strife going on around the characters. Not that that is not an important subject, but life in Israel can’t all revolve around the wars and it is nice to get a feel for the minutiae of daily life in the country, mixing hard daily reality with a charmingly surreal bent.
Jellyfish is not about politics – at least not the politics of leadership. Instead it embraces the politics of relationships, looking at how several Israeli lives are changed by the people they love and the people they meet.
There is a vague connecting tissue to the three stories which co-exist here – the wedding reception of a young couple who may not know each other as well as they thought.
When the bride (Noa Knoller) breaks her ankle trying to escape from a bathroom stall, the couple has to scramble to find local accommodations for the honeymoon because they can no longer go to the Caribbean. They end up in a Tel Aviv high-rise hotel where they start quickly to get on each other’s nerves – the room is too hot, too loud, there is nothing to do, they really have little in common. Then the groom (Gera Sandler) befriends an older, mysterious woman writer who is also staying at the hotel, which sets off a jealous streak in his new spouse.
One of the waitresses at the reception is Batya (Sarah Adler), despondent after breaking up with her boyfriend, living in a tenement apartment that has an ever-worsening leak, who has strained relationships with her politician mother, her father and his new bride, a former school classmate of the Batya’s. Her life changes completely when she befriends the wedding photographer and later at the beach meets a young, silent, lost girl (Nikol Leidman) who she feels she must care for.
The last main character is a homesick Filipino nurse (Ma-nenita De Latorre) who is hired by a middle-aged actress (the actress’ pretentiously post-modern stage version of Hamlet provides some of the film’s most unexpected laughs) to care for her elderly mother – despite the fact that the nurse knows no Hebrew. The mother wants no part of this woman in her home, but eventually the two are able to work out an increasingly comfortable relationship – to the disappointment of the daughter who can’t connect with her own mother.
The threads of the stories swerve in and out until Jellyfish has created a vital human tapestry. Much of it verges on the fantastical – for example, you never know for sure if the little girl is real or just a figment of Batya’s imagination. Yet, in many ways it simply doesn’t matter. Jellyfish takes an imaginative look at women who are figuratively (and occasionally literally) lost at sea, trying to find beacons to lead them to safety.
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 20, 2008.