The Other Son takes the elemental fear of being separated from your child at birth and uses it as the gateway into some huge ideological questions. Two young men, one Israeli Joseph Silberg (Jules Sitruk) and one Palestinian Yacine Al Bezaaz (Mehdi Dehbi) discover that they’ve been switched at birth. In the wake of this revelation their families (Alon [Pascal Elbe] and Orith [Emmanuelle Devos] Silberg & Leila [Areen Omari], Said [Khalifa Natour] and Bilal [Mahmud Shalaby] Al Bezaaz) must wrangle with what happens now. Co-writer/director Lorraine Levy’s sensitivity during this poetic inquisition elevates this potentially inflammatory text into a deeply moving dramatic cinema. Early in the film you’re getting a glimpse that on a weekly basis Alon and Orith head out on a date to the movies. The camera, as if it’s shooting out of the screen — observes them in the audience. They’re playfully eating popcorn and dining on a piece of escapism. The sequence that just elevated The Other Son to another level for this reviewer is watching Orith in the cinema again, alone in the wake of an argument with Alon, attempting to recapture that feeling. This time the turmoil of this situation has imposed itself upon her family. She appears to be pleading with the screen for a taste of that escape but she can’t bear it. The camera work from Levy zooming in to a close-up is almost applying pressure on Orith and suffocating her, until she is forced to exit the theatre. Levy is so self aware here that she’s simultaneously disempowering cinema only to amplify its dramatic poetry with the visual artistry of Orith’s ocean side walk; teetering on the sublimity in quiet contemplation of the crippling complexity of this situation. In the set-up and punch of those sequences that you get a glimpse at how the horrific reality of the socio-political situation that injects this story with its venom is dealt with a necessary deftness.
Although Levy manipulates this ensemble like a genuis does a rubik's cube both the main subjects, Sitruk and Dehbi, and Devos manage to outshine their fellow cast members. Sitruk's Joseph is tortured by the prospect of becoming the rabid Palestinian terrorist of the Israeli propaganda machine. While Dehbi's Yacine allows his new found heritage to open doors to a bright future - that is until his family think he's going to abandon them. Devos' Orith just projects the despair of irrevocably lost time and envious yearning all across the screen.
The Other Son is a hopeful, affective humanistic drama; infused with the incalculable weight of ideology and history.
[rating=4] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.