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A troubling relationship between a child and her stepfather goes ignored and we watch her means of coping.
Pedophilia & Rape
Characters Worth Noting
Adar (Shira Haas) | Michael (Ori Pfeffer) | Alma (Keren Mor) | Alan (Adar Zohar-Hanetz)
Adar was perhaps once a brilliant girl, but then Michael came into her life. Her mother, Alma, adores Michael, to the point they get a bit saucy even in front of Adar. But it seems Michael finds himself more than just in love, or perhaps lust, with Alma. Being an avid painter, Michael finds something about Adar which makes her into his muse. One he almost obsessively draws and Alma pays little mind to it as she often pays no mind to anything dealing with Adar, unless she becomes inconvenient that is. Hence how a boy named Alan is allowed to stay with them, as long as he can keep Adar from skipping school.
But alas, Alan’s presence isn’t a solution but merely a distraction. One which just reveals more of Michael’s twisted ways, and how it affects Adar, to us.
I don’t know why it is I never find myself drawn to foreign films which have happy endings and happy people but aren’t a bore. This one from Israel though, I must admit is as head turning as most I’ve seen. Reason being, we have a mother neglecting her child’s various means and methods of trying to speak with her mother, all because of the way a man moves his hips. Which was a bit strange to me but not because I don’t know of many women like Alma, but because of how inconsistent Alma and Adar’s relationship is. On one hand, it seems like she cares about Adar and notes how she enjoyed some one on one time she got with her with Michael not there, and she even seemed joyful to walk Adar through her first period. However, there are at least two occasions when Adar tries to open her mother’s eyes to what is going on and she is ignored. The bigger moment of the two is before a rape scene and it seems Alma ignores it as either Adar or Alan struggles. Though I should note, when Michael returns to bed she does clinch or do something to his privates but then at breakfast, it is like nothing happened.
Leading to what makes this movie so trippy. Alan is a teenaged boy who, because the mom is so inconsistent in her parenting, is allowed to live with her daughter who probably is barely near 13. But often times, it is hard to know whether Alan is real or not. As noted in the “Characters Worth Noting” section, he is played by a different actor. However, in the beginning, you aren’t fully clear of Adar and Michael’s relationship. Especially how she feels about it. So with Alan’s introduction, you are left unsure if this is perhaps a trans youth envisioning how he would like to look, how Adar would look if she could fight back, how perhaps Michael would like her to look since he calls her “Prince” affectionately, or if maybe Alan is what she finds cute?
And what makes it hard to know if Alan is real is because pretty much Alan and Adar have nearly the same physical look and wear nearly identical clothes. Add on Alma consistently refers to Adar as disturbed, though doesn’t note if this is an opinion or medical fact, and then you start to analyze how the two are handled in their scenes. Are there clear differences? Does the way Alma and Michael handle Alan make it seem they aren’t just adapting to Adar’s possible defensive mechanism? Plus, considering the switchblade Alan has, which Alma has at the end, is that a hint that they are the same person or should we just consider that Alan’s goodbye gift so Adar could defend herself?
The psychology of each character is definitely something you’ll ponder a bit about not only during the film but after you watch it. How much did the mom truly care if she willing to put her sexual needs over her daughter’s physical safety? How real was Alan and was he how Adar wanted to be or was he perhaps the ideal guy she wanted to talk with, maybe experiment with, as opposed to Michael?
I should note that everyone plays their parts well and will get a reaction out of you. A part of me felt that Haas was probably a bit of a standout, but with a sort of Léa Seydoux vibe to her, that is what brought her, mostly, quiet suffering, its power.
If there is no desire to look past the surface of the characters, the mother is, simply put, infuriating and inconsistent. She is almost downright cruel to her daughter, dares to accuse her, Adar, a child, of seducing Michael, and watches her child suffer. Yet will speak so lovingly to her and be so kind when Adar gets her first period. One could argue the inconsistency is because of the mother’s own mental issues, but cruelty without explanation is sometimes too much to stomach in a movie.