Disobedience (2017) by Sebastián Lelio
I’m late to this. I wanted to watch the movie when it came out but missed it (it’s also quite possible that they never showed in in my hometown, or only for a week or two). I reread the book before it came out or was due to come out – that review is here – and it was a welcome trip down beautiful memory lane. Because it is beautiful and so is the movie – they’re also both haunting, and that’s why I’m writing about it now… again.
Ronit Krushka (Rachel Weisz) returns to the orthodox Jewish community she grew up in when her father, the Rav (Anton Lesser), dies. She’s there to mourn but the community is surprised by her return as she fled to New York and became a photographer.
She finds shelter with the prospective new Rav, Dovid Kuperman (Alessandro Nivola), and his wife, Esti (Rachel McAdams), friends from her youth. And Esti was more than that even – the girls were in love but their love was forbidden.
I put off watching this a little. You know how it is when you love a book and then the movie comes out and you’re not sure if it will live up to the book. I shouldn’t have fretted because the movie is very close to the book. What I missed was part of the back story. The friendship between the three youngsters, how Ronit and Esti found love.
However, you know there’s more to the story. Through the whole movie, words seem to remain unsaid, feelings suppressed. You wonder, you delve into what’s happening but there is so much under the surface. And that’s what ultimately gives the movie its haunting atmosphere.
I feel like the movie builds more on the love story than the book did. The book was more about tradition and religion, about ritual. It also spans over a month, while the movie only spans a few days, a week maybe. The shift towards the love story gives the movie a different focus. Ronit’s grief and lost-ness make way for Esti’s suppressed feelings and she feels much more like the main protagonist, or at least it feels like she should be the main protagonist. Rachel McAdams gives a fantastic performance, she seems to finally be able to show the whole scope of her ability and it’s earth-shattering.
The three main characters perform a sort of dance around each other in the small space of the Kuperman house. They all know what had been before, are weary of what might happen again – except for Esti who longs for things to happen, to change. Like in the book, she hangs all those hopes on Ronit. This awkward threesome feels caged and the actors play their characters with maximum ability and cagey-ness. They make you feel what they feel.
It’s not an easy watch but it’s not as difficult as one might think either. The movie walks along steady-paced, adopts the humor of the book, shows people on the brink of change who are not afraid. It’s really wonderful to watch on any evening when you find yourself weary of any old story and want to watch something a little different.
It’s one of the best movies I watched this year so far, maybe the best.