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Watch this film for the charming main character and unique perspective of portraying 3 love stories in a childish vitality posed against falling scud missiles
I just watched the 1999 Israeli film, "Ha Chaverim Shel Yana", subtitled in English as "Yana's Friends". I found it light-hearted and fun to watch, though it dealt with serious issues of marital trust and fidelity, care and respect of the elderly, and caring for each other especially in a time of war.
The film takes place in Israel immediately before and during the 1991 Gulf War, when Israelis feared Iraqi scud missile attacks. Yana (Evelyn Kaplun) is an innocent and lovable Russian immigrant to Israel and soon finds herself abandoned by her husband, who, though Yana is pregnant, returns to Russia with their money. Their roomate, Eli (Nir Levy), is an obsessive videographer who seems to have a parade of visiting women.
As scud missiles fall and people rush to their sealed rooms and gas masks, love develops in three couples. I enjoy the surprise when a film effectively combines vastly different emotions, such as humor in the immediate aftermath of tragedy in "Steel Magnolias" (1989; http://imdb.com/title/tt0098384/) or humor in the face of terrible depravation in "La Vita è bella" (English title "Life is Beautiful", 1997; http://imdb.com/title/tt0118799/). The sensual scenes in the midst of the missile attacks were a welcome and interesting - and unexpectedly believable - twist in this film.
The character development is somewhat shallow and some of the situations portrayed seem far-fetched (such as a couple who survives by posing mute and wheelchair-bound "grandpa" as a poor military veteran and abandoning him during the daytime to unwittingly beg for money), but this film has a charm that is best enjoyed, it seems to me, by not analyzing it too deeply. I'm also sure that some of the story was lost in subtitles.
I recommend this rather feel-good film, especially for the sweet charm of Yana and the bizarre connection to recent world events. Watching Yana deal with twists in her life - abandonment by her husband, surreptitious filming by her roommate, money problems - with humility and yet determination with a smile, and seeing a war through eyes swept up in love and a childish vitality for life, made it an experience that I enjoyed.
--Dilip Barman, March 29, 2004
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