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Aaron (Shtrauss), a respected butcher and a family man in an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, leads a conservative life of community devotion and spiritual dedication. Aaron's life undergoes a series of emotional changes following the arrival of a young apprentice (Danker) to his shop. Consumed with lust, the handsome "Yeshiva" student irreversibly transforms the intricate beliefs in the once-devoted butcher's life - leading Aaron to question his relationships with his wife, children, community, and God. Written by
"Eyes Wide Open" has a wonderful sense of sincerity to it. It's a small, unpretentious film which manages to plunge to emotional depths without being showy or sensational. This restraint imbues the film with much power and conviction in telling the story of a family man whose inner world is torn apart when he falls in love with a young man. What makes this scenario unique is that the milieu in which this is played out, is that of the ultra Orthodox Jewish society in Jerusalem. As with all extreme religions there is of course no place for deviants from the norm.
Aharon, the protagonist, is a deeply religious man searching for truths who has to face the truth of his own heart. In perhaps the most poignant scene of the film, he confesses to his horrified spiritual mentor that he feels he's truly come alive for the first time.
"Eyes Wide Open" is the debut feature film of director Haim Tabakman. It is unusual for a first time director to demonstrate such assurance of style and tone. What would make or break a film of this nature is the quality of the performances. All the secondary parts are well played, but it is Zohar Strauss utterly convincing lead performance which makes the film work. There is not one false moment. This makes the inherent tragic situation an extremely moving one to behold. Highly recommended.
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