Wednesday, May 10, 2017

ONE WEEK AND A DAY: Asaph Polonsky's hilarious and moving study of, yes, grief

Yet another edgy, dark, smart and surprising Israeli movie. Yet another winner. Is there perhaps something unique about this little country that has gone, over its 50-plus-year history, from oppressed to oppressor, in which its artists seem particularly and peculiarly in touch with the "duality" of things? TrustMovies suspects so. In any case, this new work from a filmmaker who is also new to me -- Asaph Polonsky -- proves one the best examples of Israeli movie-making this year. The Women's Balcony might have been the more popular film in Israel, but ONE WEEK AND A DAY will certainly prove the more enduring.

Mr. Polonsky, shown at left, opens his film as the final day of shiva is closing for the husband and wife who have recently lost their young-adult son. Neither parent is any mood to be placated in any way, and dad, in particular, is feeling rotten. As performed by Shai Avivi (shown below, right, and at bottom) with an bizarre combo of absolute entitlement and anger, this character soon becomes indelible. And shocking. You feel for him, of course. Hey, he's grieving. But you would also understand any of the other characters punching this guy to kingdom come.

His poor wife (Evgenia Dodina, above and below) who grieves a bit more sedately but is still herself overcome with hurt and anger, puts up with her hubby, and before long you can see and feel the huge bond that holds them. Grief can take many forms, it is true. Still, the husband's actions during the first half to maybe two-thirds of the film are so simultaneously awful and darkly comic, you'll find yourself guffawing in surprise, while never losing touch with what is under the surface of all this.

Mr. Polonsky does a terrific balancing act here. From the ping pong game (heard only on the sound track) that begins the film, and that takes a distinctly surprising visual turn when at last the camera observes that game, to the bowl of salad the neighbors bring to the shiva, to hubby's response to the lovemaking going on next door, the movie builds in detail, anger and humor. But along with this come scenes of small kindness such as dad's interaction with the dying patient who has taken his son's sickbed in hospice.

The introduction of the neighbor's son, similar in age to the son who has died, is a brilliant touch, and Tomer Kapon (second from left, above) proves a delight in the role. His interactions with mom, and even more so with dad, are highlights here.

When the film finally takes dad to the cemetery (he has been avoiding this throughout), Mr. Polonsky sees to it that oddly, but quite fittingly, death is at last given its due. How the filmmaker wraps all this together (he even includes -- holy hell! -- a pair of adorable kittens) is something to see and experience. One Week and a Day is yet another reason why Israeli films -- small, yes, but so specific and genuine -- are among the best currently being made.

Released in the USA via Oscilloscope, the movie opens here in South Florida this Friday, May 12, at AMC Aventura and the Coral Gables Art Cinema (the Miami Beach Cinematheque will offer the film one week later on May 19); at The Last Picture Show/Tamarac;  and in Palm Beach County at the Living Room Theatres, the Regal Shadowood 18, and the Movies of Delray and Movies of Lake Worth. The movie opens elsewhere, too, so wherever you are, click here then scroll down to find a theater near you.,

Note: You can meet writer/director Polonsky at most of these South Florida theaters: The Coral Gables Art Cinema is hosting a wine reception opening night Friday, May 12, starting at 7:00pm followed by the film, at 8:00pm featuring a Q&A with writer/director Asaph Polonsky moderated by Igor Shteyrenberg, director of the Miami Jewish Film Festival. Q&As at other theaters opening weekend May 13- May 14. Q&A Showtimes and locations are: Saturday, May 13 1:00pm at The Last Picture Show in Tamarac; 12:30pm/3:00pm/5:20pm at Movies of Delray; Estimated 6pm at Regal Shadowood and Evening Estimated 7:20pm at Living Room Theaters in Boca Raton. Sunday, May 14 Estimated 11:45am at Living Room Theaters Estimated 2:45pm afternoon show AMC Aventura. Showtimes listed are subject to change, please check Q&A showtimes here.

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