If “The Other Story” had to be described in one word, it would be “tense.”
None of the characters in this Israeli film from director Avi Nesher take the time to really listen to each other. The dialogue is a rapid back and forth; everyone is more interested in spewing out what they want to say rather than acknowledging what their scene partner is saying. There is constant interruption between the players in this story and it all evokes the feeling of a really uncomfortable family dinner.
Nesher’s 21st film, which was distributed by Strand Releasing, focuses entirely on the psychology of stressful relationships. Nesher co-wrote the film with professor of psychology at Otterbein University, Dr. Noam Shpancer.
The story revolves around one family’s specific drama, and how one person’s behavior affects another’s. The words of an enraged mother fuel the anxiety of a daughter, while the anxiety of that daughter creates distance between her and her fiance and so on. Despite the emotion in the film, things never become overly melodramatic.
Set in Jerusalem, the film follows Anat (Joy Rieger), a young woman who has abandoned her partying behavior for an Orthodox lifestyle. She plans on marrying her boyfriend, Shahar (Nathan Goshen), a former pop star, who is now studying at a yeshiva. Shahar is the one who originally made the radical change from sex, drugs and rock and roll to a religious lifestyle, and Anat went along with it.
Anat is so committed to her new lifestyle that she is reluctant to involve her family in her future. Her mother, Tali (Maya Dagan), fears that after the wedding and eventually having children, her daughter will cut ties with them completely. So she enlists the help of Anat’s estranged and hated psychologist father, Yonaton (Yuval Segal), to try and change her ways.
Yonaton’s father, Shlomo (Sasson Gabi), another psychologist, is trying to help him, but is also working with a divorcing couple to make a recommendation on custody of their son. The couple in question is a reminder of what Shlomo fears will happen to Anat and Shahar.
The focus on one family’s drama is compelling enough for a viewing, but the inclusion of the divorcing couple is an added complication. It’s not fully distracting, but the film’s narrative loses its strength when it goes outside of the core group of characters. The side plot involving the couple deals with a pagan cult and has a scene involving a mother tying her children up with a rope. It’s unclear whether this scene is supposed to be played for laughs.
There are other odd tonal shifts that seem to imply a sense of humor, but just come off as awkward or too subtle. The film’s strength as a family drama is undercut by some of the external oddities.
But the film makes up for this with intimate cinematography and fast editing. Both effectively convey unease and tension. Quick cuts don’t allow us to take in and analyze the arguments between the members of this increasingly dysfunctional family, but that level of discomfort makes us feel as if we’re a part of this family.
“The Other Story” will make its Arizona debut on Friday, July 26, at Harkins Camelview in Scottsdale’s Fashion Square. JN