Dir: Michal Vinik | 78′
Michal Vinik’s gripping and artfully filmed sophomore feature sees two Ukrainian sisters trying to make the best of things in Israel. It reflects a reality for many women who have been conditioned to suppress their real desires in order to meet traditional societal values when their own security is threatened. But they soon discover that Israeli men are tough but fair in a situation that is far more complex than it initially appears.
Valeria (Dasha Tvoronovich) is met at the airport by her sister Christina (Lena Fraifeld) where a marriage has already been arranged, but life in Bat Yam seems super stressful even by comparison with the turmoil she has left behind.
Christina (Fraifeld) is newly married to an attractive Israeli man Michael (Yacov Zada Daniel) but already the pressure to get everything right is felt through a series of panicky telephone calls from Michael to his mother, Christina trying to smooth over her sister’s nervousness with broad smiles and reassurances.
After a treatment at the local beauty salon, Valeria (Dasha Tvoronovich) go back to the flat where she is introduced to her intended, a likeable but rather goofy vegetarian called Eitan (Avraham Shalom Levi). The guy is clearly strung out and starts blabbering about his nervousness and her need learn Hebrew at the Ulpan, presenting her with a brand new mobile phone loaded up with apps. You immediately get the impression that Valeria is less than keen about her future husband, and as the dinner proceeds the conversation is stilted and Eitan makes a series of social faux pas as a palpable tension descends on this cosy dinner for four.
It soon emerges that Christina and her husband are going to need to access state fertility treatment which can only start when she becomes a legal Israeli citizen. But clearly she is playing this down so as not to emasculate her husband. Valeria listens patiently and then asks her sister a simple question that speaks volumes: “Do you love him?”. Christina responds “it’s not like in the movies, but I have everything I need”. The couple live in a spacious modern flat in the seaside city just south of Tel Aviv.
Unfortunately Valeria behaves rather childishly refusing to come out of the bathroom to discuss her feelings like an adult with the others who are sympathetic and open to suggestions including having her own separate bedroom in Eitan’s place. After all he has paid 5,000 dollars to find a suitable bride. But it gradually descends into farce as they two sisters giggle behind the bathroom door, throwing the key out of the window. So they all go back to drawing room of this brilliantly acted and compulsive domestic drama that gradually descends into farce as the various plot strands coalesce to a satisfying conclusion. MT
SPECIAL JURY AWARD WINNER – INTERNATIONAL FEATURE COMPETITION | ANTALYA FILM FESTIVAL | VENICE FILM FESTIVAL | HORIZONS EXTRA STRAND 2022