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The unexpected death of the family patriarch throws every member of the Ulman clan off course. Widow Dafna takes to bed for three months and when she finally returns to her job at the maternity hospital, she has little time for her children. Eldest son, Yair drops out of school and adopts a fatalist attitude, shutting out his siblings and girlfriend. His twin sister Maya, a talented musician, feels the most guilt and is forced to act as a family caregiver at the expense of career opportunities. Bullied at school, younger son Ido responds by obsessively filming himself with a video camera and attempting dangerous feats. The baby sister, Bar, is woefully neglected. Preoccupied with their own misery, the family is barely a family anymore. When another tragedy strikes, will they be able to support one another? Written by
Sujit R. Varma
"Broken Wings" is a poignant, slice-of-life drama about an Israeli family's coming to terms with the death of their father nine months earlier. The widow, Dafna, is a 43 year-old mother of four who works endless hours as a midwife at the local hospital, both to earn money to support her family as well as to avoid having to face the reality of the tragic loss she has suffered. For while she is a loving, devoted mother, she seems unable to provide the guidance and solace her children need in this time of incomprehensible grief and suffering. Thus, the children are left to cope more or less on their own as best they can - and this on top of all the problems young people face just doing the ordinary, day-to-day business of growing up. Her oldest son, Yair, has responded to his father's death by dropping out of high school and adopting a fatalistic philosophy, declaring that life is nothing more than a series of random events that mean nothing against the backdrop of an immensely vast, impersonal universe. The oldest daughter, 17 year-old Maya, has hopes of becoming a successful rock musician, but finds herself having to carry the burden of raising the two younger children while their absent mother spends most of her waking hours at work. The two youngsters, Ido and Bahr, cope with the loss of their father and the inadvertent neglect from their overworked mother in various and heartbreaking ways. The narrative is paced in such a way that we learn about the life of this family only through bits and pieces of carefully revealed information, with each scene exposing more and more about the people and their situation until ultimately a full picture emerges. In fact, it is a good half hour at least before we even know that the father is dead.
The movie takes a very low-keyed approach to its subject matter, showing, in an understated fashion, the devastating effect the death of a parent can have on a family unit. The film is filled with lovely little moments of humor, warmth and insight that draw us deeply into the drama. We see how each of the various characters responds to the situation and to each other, watching as the feelings of guilt, resentment and recrimination bubble to the surface. As a second crisis hits the family, a whole host of long-dormant feelings and emotions finally break out in open conflict. Yet, as with a wound that needs to be cauterized before it can heal, this second trauma proves to be the rupture the family needs to begin its process of recovery. The amazing thing is that writer/director Nir Bergman is able to do all this in an economical 82-minute running time. Yet, even with that limited length, the filmmaker captures the texture of the family members' daily lives through an impressive array of sharply drawn subsidiary characters who play an integral part in the central drama.
Bergman has also been blessed with first-rate actors in the primary roles. Orly Silbersatz Banai as Dafna, Maya Maron as Maya, and Nitai Gaviratz as Yair deliver, beautifully realistic, heartfelt performances. The other cast members are all excellent as well.
"Broken Wings" is a small, overlooked gem that gets to the heart of what it means to be a family. It would be a shame for anyone to miss it.
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