You probably haven’t heard of Ronit Elkabetz; I hadn’t until this film. But she’s a talent to watch. She co-wrote this incisive, brilliant script; she directed this visually striking film; and she gives a toweringly great lead performance. This film tells the story of a regular Israeli woman seeking a divorce from her husband and the years long process required in order to receive a gett, a granting of divorce from the rabbinical council. The film is really just breathtaking. The entire film takes place in the tiny courtroom and the lobby outside, giving the film a claustrophobic air and yet Elkabetz manages to direct the film in such a way that the film never feels static or stagy (though it would make a perfect play). The cast is outstanding. As Viviane, Elkabetz finds a quiet strength; it’s a minimal performance until suddenly it isn’t and you’ll remember the expressions on her face for the rest of her life. Menashe Noy gives a canny, wonderful performance as the lawyer arguing for Viviane while Sasson Gabai very nearly walks off with the entire movie with his witty, incredibly layered performance as the lawyer arguing for Viviane’s husband, a smarmy, implacable Simon Abkarian. Eli Gornstein is pitch perfect as the frustrating & frustrated head rabbi. As the film ticks on and the years pass without freedom for Viviane, the film gains a kind of crushing frustration. The film is very much a feminist statement about the plight of women in orthodox Judaism, but the filmmakers are too smart to make it strident. The slow realization just slowly builds over the film’s running time and the script is smart enough to layer itself in interesting ways. None of the characters here are perfect, including Viviane, but all are ultimately, to varying degrees, sympathetic, flawed people in a deeply flawed system. And by confining the film to the courthouse, the film allows for a surprising amount of ambiguity; we never see the truth of all the allegations made in this film and the performances are subtle and ambiguous enough that we’re honestly not sure what to believe about many of the central events brought up in the proceedings. In short, this film is really a masterwork and easily the best courtroom drama I’ve seen in . . . God, what feels like forever. It’s a devastatingly great movie and one that will stay with you long after the credits roll. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – woman seeks an orthodox Jewish divorce; layered script, claustrophobic direction, ambiguous characters/performances; magnificent calling card for writer/director/star Elkabetz. 4 stars.