Monday, 25 March 2019

Rachels find novel means of rebelling

Rachels find novel means of rebelling

SET in north London’s Orthodox Jewish community and based on the award-winning 2006 novel by Naomi Alderman, Disobedience is the story of how two women, united in grief, rediscover a powerful attraction — one that flies in the face of their frum community’s rigid rules and customs and threatens to make them outcasts from everything they hold dear.

Learning that her estranged rabbi father has collapsed and died while delivering a sermon in his beloved Hendon synagogue, Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns from Manhattan to the enclave she left several years earlier to pursue a career in photography.

She arrives unexpectedly at the home of her childhood friend Dovid to a welcome from her Uncle Moshe and the other stern-faced mourners in attendance that’s anything but warm. However, there’s at least one person who seems happy to see her — Dovid’s wife, Esti (Rachel McAdams), an old friend with whom Ronit once had an illicit affair but whom has since embraced her position as an attentive and submissive spouse.

As preparations are made for her father’s funeral, Ronit and Esti realise that the love they once had burns as strongly as ever — a revelation that not only imperils Esti’s position but also Dovid’s future as the rabbi’s obvious successor.

Ronit, meanwhile, is shaken to learn that her father had not only cut her out of his will but also disowned her. The stage is set for an unavoidable collision between passion and tradition in a film that asks searching questions about religion, transgression and individuality.

Yet Disobedience is also a touching love story that transcends the cultural specificity of its setting — however authentically it is captured by Danny Cohen, the Oscar-nominated cinematographer of The King’s Speech. Convinced that an outsider’s eye was needed for this portrait of one of the UK’s most insular communities, Weisz and her producing partner Frida Torresblanco turned to director Sebastián Lelio, whose dating drama Gloria so impressed audiences in 2013.

Lelio in turn partnered with acclaimed playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz to hone the material — a year-long process that had them spend the weekend at a Jewish hotel at one point as part of their research.

Nivola, meanwhile, did his own preparation, having shabbat dinners with people he now calls “friends for life” in his determination to ensure that the “incredible warmth” of their hospitality was accurately depicted.

Disobedience is now showing at Henley’s Regal Picturehouse cinema.

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