Published Apr 01, 2004"It could be worse, right?" For the recently widowed Dafna and her four children, this is the thought that keeps them afloat after the sudden death of their father. The six-year old wets the bed. The teenaged daughter has to skip her band's first gig to baby-sit. The younger son has a habit of jumping into empty swimming pools. The teenaged son dresses as a giant mouse and hands out flyers on the subway. No one remembers to pick the six-year old up from her first day of school. It could be worse, right? At least we're all still here.
But their fortitude has its limits and the grief and loneliness stretches this family too far, until, over the course of two disastrous days, things almost can't be worse. And then, somehow, they do get better and life staggers on.
Israeli director Nir Bergman's moving film has been scooping up awards at film festivals all over the world (Tokyo, Jerusalem, Berlin). A cast of talented newcomers is led by stage veteran Orly Zilberschatz-Banai as Dafna, who is at her best when silent and just lets the grief play across her face.
Here, Bergman sets out to capture the small changes that happen to people. This film is not about big revelations or dramatic reversals but rather tiny, unavoidable epiphanies. It is all restraint: small decisions, simmering guilt and relentless grief. Even the father's death, it turns out, hinged on banal events and apparently inconsequential decisions.
This understated plotting allows the emotions to come through honestly, without the falsification of melodrama, and the result is a profoundly sad film that never feels manipulative. It won't make you cry, but it will leave you feeling awful. (Mongrel Media)