#REVIEW: “A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Whereas there are moments to admire in Natalie Portman’s directorial and screenwriting feature Film debut with A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS, the Oscar-winning actress may have bitten off more than she can chew. Every now and again, a Movie’s title encapsulates everything on screen succinctly. Adapted from an acclaimed Israeli autobiographical novel and set in British occupied Jerusalem 1945, the Movie opens with an abundance of love; especially that of a love shared between a mother, Fania (played by Portman) and her young son Amos (Amir Tesslar). She regales him with bedside stories that would ordinarily be beyond the scope of a normal 10 year old, but these parables are stylistically filmed. The darkness takes over when Fania, who was born and raised in a rich and privileged environment now lives in a lower class suburb with her librarian husband Arieh (Gilad Ahana) and son, falls into a deep depression.
A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS is almost oppressive in its numbness. A depressed state of mind can be difficult to successfully portray on the big screen. Whereas Portman must be commended for filming the Movie entirely in Hebrew and there are sporadic scenes throughout that are beautifully realized, she is still a neophyte director and screenwriter. She is not strong enough just yet in either capacities to bring out the best with her collaborators. The performances by all the lead actors are just adequate; there is not one character that the audience can root for.
Situations that are in the background also could have been expanded more – the founding of the state of Israel and the tenuous relations between the Jews and Arabs are given minimal treatment. Most importantly, to paraphrase a cliché, into darkness alittle light must fall. A nice sequence of Fania preparing borscht is immediately followed by her mother-in-law’s stating that the Russian version is better than the Polish one she is served.
When young Amos meets a pretty Arab girl at a party and they have a precocious and too wise beyond their means and age conversation, an accident occurs. I have been an admirer of Natalie Portman since I first saw her on-screen as a 13 year old in Leon:The Professional. She is a consummate performer. Sadly, in her triple duties as director, writer and star of A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS, she took on more than she could handle.
D Films release A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS Friday, August 26, 2016 in Toronto and Friday, September 2, 2016 – Montreal, Vancouver.