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The Kind Words

showing Sunday February 26, 2023
By Elissa Hutner

Nominated for 12 Israeli Academy Awards in 2015 in every major category, “The Kind Words” was lauded by critics, including those of both the “The New York Times” and “The L.A. Times.” 

The film opens in the distant past, with a young couple who have run away together, but are thwarted when the girl’s male relatives take her away kicking and screaming, and then beat up the boy. 

Cut to the present in Israel, and the Baruchs, 3 thirtyish Jerusalem siblings, discover a mystery after their mother’s death that they set out to solve.  Following in their footsteps is their father, who fairly recently dumped their mother, Yona, for a younger woman.

Daughter, Darona( ( award winner, Rotem Zisman – Cohen, ) is desperate for children but prone to miscarriages. She tries to separate from her devoted husband Ricki (Tshai Halevi, Bethlehem, Fauda, Forgiveness) who still wants her. Dorona’s gay younger brother, Shai, has a wife and daughter abroad, and the eldest sibling, Netanel, turned Orthodox when he married an American who gave birth to triplets.  They’re tight-knit, but all resent and shun their father for discarding the now dead Yoni. Multiple award winner and prolific actor, Sasson Gabay, is credited only as “The Father.”

After Yoni dies, The Father tells the siblings that he and his young girlfriend had been trying to get pregnant but the doctors told him that he is sterile and it has always been so – and therein lies the mystery: Who is the Baruch kids’ biological father and is he the same man for all 3? Even more shocking to them is the possibility that the mystery man or men may have been Arab.  The answer may be in Paris, where every year Yoni visited her sister, Aunt Rosa.  The siblings and Ricky chase the clues in Jerusalem, Paris and Marsielles. 

It’s fun to watch the mystery unfold as each sibling struggles with questions of identity as more is revealed, but the real charm of this film and “perhaps most impressive . . . is how (writer and director) Shemi Zarhin and his fine, appealing actors deftly capture the essence of a tight sibling bond: that playfully blunt, lovingly annoyed, history-filled dynamic unique to growing up . . .  together” ( L.A. Times). 

For the Baruchs, it’s both a journey of self-discovery and a romp. “Humor creeps in from strange sources, including a seller of funeral packages and a march through a Paris graveyard. And while not every motivation is clear, subtext isn’t everything in a movie as complex and satisfying as this one” (New York Times).

Directed by Shemi Zarhin, Israel, 2015

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