Adult Lives Look Like Magic Realism to a Teen Ager
"Nina's Tragedies (Ha-Asonot Shel Nina)" is a charming mix of genres.
It's a coming of age story of a young teen boy (played very age appropriately with wide-eyed naiveté by Aviv Elkabeth) who acutely observes his dysfunctional family and their friends without really comprehending their adult emotions.
It's also a sophisticated urban comedy about artists and intellectuals that we are more used to seeing in movies set in Paris or New York, including a fashion designer, a book editor, photographer, sculptor and nudist performance artist.
The casual fillips that make us know they live in Tel Aviv add unique ramifications, as one character is killed while serving in the Army reserves (which for non-Israelis gives the film a post-9/11 overlay) and another gets caught up in ecstatic Orthodox Judaism.
It also capitalizes on unusual twist of fate relationships, as portrayed in such movies as "Next Stop Wonderland" where we think we are watching magic realism but it turns out to be grounded in coincidence.
The boy's desperate crush on his beautiful aunt is the mechanism to link the stories, as his voyeurism becomes a metaphor for the viewer and for artists in general, almost a bit too preciously as the boy is, as in most every such film, a budding writer.
The film combines cheerfully earthy and frank sexuality with intense romantic longing, so it is a much more ironic view of grief than the Israeli film "Broken Wings (Knafayim Shvurot)" that was released in the U.S. last year. There's a long kiss that matches TV's most sensual kiss of the season in "Lost" with beautiful cinematography of temporary fulfillment. The primarily night-time cinematography is lovely.
The acting is wonderful, particularly Ayelet Zurer as the strikingly lovely aunt who has intense chemistry in contrast with the solidity of craggy-faced Alon Abutbul. Anat Waxman makes the quirky mother a real person, not a silly joke. The concluding coda seems too much wishful thinking, even if it is emotionally satisfying.
The credits are not translated into English and many of the subtitles are white on white.
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