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Drug dealer Alex finds hope for a new start when his cousin offers him a job in Israel. Now he must make the final score, while balancing a new romance, a past lover, a lifelong friendship and his brother's addiction. In French w/ English subtitles. Official Selection - Cannes FF Directors' Fortnight. Written by
For starters, Film Movement has rescued this exceptional film from possible viewer obscurity by gaining the right to promote it in this country and for this everyone who loves fine films should be grateful. The debut film by Director Elie Wajeman who with Gaëlle Macé wrote the screenplay is a quiet but intense exploration of the ties that bind young men to family, to lovers, to friends and to religion.
First a moment to define the title: Aliyah is the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the land of Israel. It is one of the most basic tenets of Zionist ideology. The return to the Holy Land has been the aspiration of many Jews since the Babylonian exile. Large-scale immigration to the land of Israel began in 1882. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, more than 3 million Jews from over 90 countries have arrived in Israel.
Alex Raphelson (the very handsome and gifted young French actor Pio Marmaï) is 27, a Jewish drug dealer in Paris who is caught between family ties and dreams of moving to a better life in Israel. His mother is dead, his father (Jean-Marie Winling) is distant, his brother Isaac (Cédric Kahn) is a ne're-do-well who is always asking Alex for money to get out of trouble, and his fellow drug dealer Nathan (David Geselson) constantly encourages Alex to make bigger sales. When Alex's cousin Mathias (Guillaume Gouix) visits Paris after completing his military service in Israel, he shares his plan to open a restaurant in Tel Aviv: Alex sees joining Mathias as a means to escape the dreary situation in Paris. Mathias is happy to have Alex join him as it will represent the religiously ambiguous Alex the opportunity to perform his Aliyah as well as add to the money Mathias must raise to open his restaurant. Alex decides to make changes and move to Israel and engages his ex-girlfriend Esther (Sarah Le Picard) to teach him Hebrew. Alex has recently met the beautiful Jeanne (Adèle Haenel) and it is Jeanne that pleads with Alex not to make the move. But Alex is convinced that this change will serve his desire for a better life and proceeds to increase his drug sales to gain the money Mathias has set as his ticket to join the restaurant. The rigors Alex must endure (a theft of his savings by Isaac, a dangerous but lucrative big drug deal that Nathan arranges, the pain he feels leaving Jeanne) do not deter him and ultimately he flies to Israel and we are left wondering with Alex whether his Aliyah was worth it as Alex sees the bleak realities of life in Israel.
This is a strongly character driven film and Pio Marmaï and Adèle Haenel are brilliant and the supporting cast is very strong. Music supervisor Pascal Mayer enhances the atmosphere with excerpts from symphonic and chamber classical music. Though some may quibble about the realities of both the lives of Jews in Paris and the importance of the Aliyah, this remains an impressive and compelling film. Highly recommended.
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