Monday, October 29, 2012
“The Other Son” is a ‘small’ French film that grabs your heart and is held by an ensemble cast that adds a realness that at times the screenwriters (Nathalie Saugeon, Noam Fitoussi and Lorraine Levy, the latter also directing) almost turn into a soap opera. The differences between Palestinians and Israeli Jews surroundings are shown without explanations and various languages including French, Arabic and Hebrew, with a lot of English, are subtitled and one always knows where one is and what is happening.
Joseph (Jules Sitruk), raised as a Jew and Yacine, (Mehdi Dehbi) raised as an Arab, find out at the age of 18 they had mistakenly been switched at birth. Joseph is taking his medical exam when the question of his blood type comes up and within time the switch is discovered. How the boys, who find that they aren’t who they think they are, the parents and the siblings, dea; with this problem is the crux of the movie.
Joseph’s mother Orith (Emmanuelle Devos) is a French born doctor, while his father, Alon, (Pascal Elbe) is an officer in the Israeli army. Joseph is a free spirited musician who wants to be a singer. Yacine’s mother, Leila (Areen Omari) is a mother and housewife who has lost a young son and devotes her time to her three children while his father, Said, (Khalifa Natour) is a mechanic, who Yacine says is an engineer but due to conditions cannot practice his trade. Of all involved the mothers find ways of accepting the situation and letting their sons know they will always be their sons while the fathers find it hard to understand that their flesh and blood have been raised to believe in the ‘other side’. Yacine’s brother, Bilal (Mahmood Shalabi), has the hardest time of all accepting Joseph as his blood brother. Growing up in the occupied territories of the Israeli he pulls away from the brother he has loved dearly and the new brother who he sees as an enemy. Shalabi has a face and eyes that in other movies would yell “MOVIE STAR” but here he is believable as a son and brother who does pull the audience away when he is in scenes with any other member of the cast.
Whenever Lorraine Levy starts to pull the story into a cliche the cast pulls back and gives it the reality, heart and soul it needs. The musical soundtrack, the director of photography along with the production designs and costumes shows you the two different worlds that are side by side.
“The Other Son” will hopefully find an American audience though in all probability very seldom does a film like this get awards in the U.S.A. It is a definite ‘must see’ if you like first rate acting, a good story and having your heart touched.