Monday, September 16, 2013

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: The Other Son


The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an issue of major contention and naturally, it lends itself to dramatic representation through cinema. At this year's Oscars, the documentary feature category alone had 2 films (The Gatekeepers and 5 Broken Cameras) investigating the topic, while numerous other narrative films have found international acclaim in recent years. In my opinion, the most potent of these films are the ones that focus on the more intimate, personal stories rather than the inherent melodrama of the broader politics and societal implications. For this reason, I found myself quite taken with the narrative of "The Other Son".
The film's story is that of 2 young men who find out that they were accidentally switched at birth in an Israeli hospital. The catch? One is Israeli and the other Palestinian. Now, it may seem like I have contradicted my earlier statement when I praise this seemingly melodramatic plot, but it plays out much more subdued than you would expect. Yes, the emotions do run high, but the film mostly uses the setup as a way to smartly pose questions about how the characters define their identity. Through its focal characters Yacine and Joseph and supporting cast of parents, siblings and friends, the film explores intriguing issues surrounding culture, food, music, religion and family. I found myself wrapped up in the story as we observe all these characters dealing with the peculiar situation in their own ways. It ends up covering a lot of ground in highlighting the various perspectives associated with the conflict, maintaining its delicate, intimate feel throughout.
Anyone hoping for something more incendiary or provocative would surely be disappointed. Some may even find the film unexciting. If you are patient however, there's intelligent discourse to be found and this should prove to be engaging in its own right.
Now while I was certainly a fan of the film, I would also readily admit to its shortcomings. There were a few elements that felt contrived, particularly the families' mutual links to France (to allow some of the actors to speak French). Hollywood often applies British accents to anything European or historical though, so I will let that slide for this French production. Even with these minor flaws, you still get a noteworthy film. "The Other Son" spreads a good message of tolerance and its heart is in the right place.

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