Disobedience (R)

Drama 114 min. May 18, 2018
By April Wolfe
While Sebastian Lelio's Best Foreign Language Oscar win for A Fantastic Woman this year marked him as a Hollywood hot prospect, his first English-language film, Disobedience, was actually already nearing completion by the time he accepted the trophy. Starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, Disobedience is an adaptation of Naomi Alderman's novel of the same name, about a tightly knit Orthodox Jewish community and the prodigal daughter who returns to poke holes in its way of life. Co-written by Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Ida), Lelio's interpretation of the text is a light-handed drama with hazy stakes and only flashes of the enigmatic tension he so fully realized in his last film.

Here, the director attempts to give three characters their own separate little movies, each given too little room. Weisz plays Ronit, a New York photographer who's called back to the UK and the community she left long ago when her religious leader father dies. But before Ronit actually shows up at the doorstep of her old friends Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and Esti (McAdams), she mourns her father in her own way in New York in a quick succession of buzzy, dreamlike moments.

When the Orthodox community cautiously welcomes Ronit in to mourn her father, Lelio gives us a glimmer of Ronit's potential to blow their world apart with a wryly humorous dinner scene, where the wild child challenges both the women and the men in their patriarchal beliefs. But Lelio soon switches focus to Esti, who's attracted only to women -- an orientation that's obviously verboten in this community. As a whole, the film is directionless, with few individual character-study scenes making it compelling enough.
Sebastián Lelio Rachel McAdams, Rachel Weisz, Alessandro Nivola, Cara Horgan, Mark Stobbart Sebastián Lelio, Rebecca Lenkiewicz Bleecker Street

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