Three childhood friends are reunited when the father of one, Ronit (Rachel Weisz), passes away and she travels to London to attend his funeral. Directed by Sebastián Lelio, who recently won the Oscar for "A Fantastic Woman", "Disobedience" is a beautifully moving film, much like his Academy Award-winning effort.
Based on the book by Naomi Alderman, published in the U.K. in 2006, Lelio also co-wrote the screenplay with Rebecca Lenkiewicz. Together they have written a substantive narrative regarding the confines and expectations of a Jewish Orthodox community in relation to the clearly defined roles of women and men.
Ronit, whose greatly-respected father, Rabbi Rav Krushka (Anton Lesser), dies while delivering a stirring sermon about man's free will, had been exiled from her London ethnic neighborhood following a forbidden relationship with another of the friends, Esti (Rachel McAdams). She fled to New York City where she established herself as a well-known photographer.
Now, back in her childhood conclave of Hendon, Ronit is invited by the third friend, Dovid Kuperman (Alessandro Nivola), now a rabbi and her father's best protege, to stay with him. A surprise comes when Ronit learns that Esti and Dovid have married.
At first, Ronit and Esti are wary of each other. Esti observes the tenets of her Orthodox heritage by her conservative dress and wigs. But it doesn't take long for the repressed feelings she once had for Ronit to resurface, causing scandal for herself and Dovid. Matters are further exacerbated when she and Ronit act on those feelings.
"Disobedience" is without a doubt a love story --- and not just one between Ronit and Esti. Dovid is clearly in the mix because of his devotion to Esti and their marriage. All three of these actors, Weisz, McAdams and Nivola, deliver heart-rending performances, and are perfectly cast.
The tender moments between Weisz and McAdams are beautifully filmed by director of photography Danny Cohen. There is no titillation, just sequences depicting two women who truly care about each other. Lelio brings out the best in his primary characters, allowing each to deal with this untenable situation in their own way.
Nivola is incredibly convincing as the devastated rabbi/husband who never imagined that his life would be so thoroughly upended. It's a quietly masterful portrayal --- stoic and heartbreaking.
"Disobedience" illustrates the power of conviction and the divine nature of free will. Matthew Herbert's music adds to the overall beauty of Lelio's seductive telling of this timeless story.
Opinion: See It Now!
We can't reveal too much in the way of a synopsis about "Disobedience", but suffice to say it is a well-crafted story about love, desire, self-awareness and the freedom of choice. It is a powerful testament to the often irresistible forces of human attraction.
As the story unfolds, we have a lot of questions. Why is Ronit (Rachel Weisz) being vilified by members of her family when she returns to London from New York upon learning of her father's death? What is Ronit's relationship to Dovid (Alessandro Nivola)? What is the connection between Ronit and Esti (Rachel McAdams)?
The movie truly keeps us guessing to the very end, and ultimately provides a satisfying conclusion. Although "Disobedience" is centered around an Orthodox Jewish community, the reality is that it could be happening to any family, of any faith. We also are privy to some long-standing Judean customs, particularly as they relate to remembering the dead. This includes the time-honored practice of a week-long mourning period, known as "sitting shiva".
The two Rachels play off each other perfectly. Both Weisz and McAdams are seasoned performers --- we never doubt for a minute the sincerity of their characters. Nivola is excellent as Dovid, the "spiritual son" of the deceased rabbi. He is the heir apparent to lead his congregation --- until life rears its sometimes ugly head, and things take a drastic turn.
Forty-four year old director Sebastián Lelio is no stranger to controversial topics in his films. He also helmed one of Jeanne's favorite movies of 2018, "A Fantastic Woman". The diminutive native of Chile also co-wrote the adapted screenplay for "Disobedience", along with Rebecca Lenkiewicz (she co-penned the critically acclaimed "Ida", 2014), based on the novel by Naomi Alderman.
"Disobedience" is easily one of the better films of 2018 thus far. The cast is exceptional, especially the two Rachels, who are mesmerizing.
Opinion: See It Now!