Friday, March 16, 2018
In a three-segment structure, the film proceeds in a steady pace with a few surprises. The first jolt to the viewers is the startling door buzz immediately following the opening scene of a quiet drive on a dirt road—which ostensibly foreshadows the story to come. As soon as Daphna Feldman (Sarah Adler) opens the front door, she passes out because she knows what it means when three uniformed Israeli soldiers appear at your door. Her husband Michael Feldmann (Lior Ashkenazi) stands frozen while the soldiers put Daphna into bed and deliver to him the devastating news that their teenage son Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray) has been killed. The family is overwhelmed by grief yet the military personnel deal with it like a routine operation and provide Michael tips about attending the funeral.
Then the movie cuts into its second segment at a desolate roadblock where Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray) and a few fellow soldiers are stationed. Most of the time, they are bored out of their minds and entertain themselves in a sinking shipping container which they use as a shelter. However, whenever a vehicle pulls up at the checkpoint, the tension sets off the alarm for all of these young soldiers. They are constantly on edge when a non-Israeli person shows up. That is a perfect atmosphere for brewing tragedies.
In its final segment, the film goes back to the apartment where Michael and Daphna try to cope with the aftermath, with the help of a joint. But the fact is that the family is forever damaged by the war they live with day by day, even far away from where the guns are fired.
Even though the filmmaker Samuel Maoz didn't explicitly let his characters criticize the war and the status quo in Israel, it's quite clear that the pain caused by the war is unbearable for ordinary people like Michael and Dephna, and no one is sure about what exactly these young people are sacrificing for. If it's for Israel's security or its citizens' safety, the end results are quite the opposite. What's worse, as the documentary "The Gatekeepers" explains, there is no end in sight.
The write-director Samuel Maoz skillfully captures the grief of his characters and he pours their sorrow towards the audience without any reservation. Despite a few comic moments in the film, the film is a piece of heavy stone dumped on you no matter you like it or not. The helplessness is also true for the characters—every young man must serve in the military no matter if he knows what and whom he is fighting for, and he must also suffer its consequences.
Can Israel and its neighbors ever get along? Based on the people who are in the government and the bloody history, it seems impossible. The routine of grieving parents is likely to continue with no end in sight.