Within Brooklyn's ultra-orthodox Jewish community, a widower battles for custody of his son. A tender drama performed entirely in Yiddish, the film intimately explores the nature of faith and the price of parenthood.
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Menashe, a widower, lives and works within the Hasidic community of Borough Park, Brooklyn. Since his wife passed away a year before, he has been trying hard to regain custody of his nine-year-old son, Rieven. But the rabbi (and all the community behind him) will not hear of it unless he re-marries, which Menashe does not want, his first marriage having been very unhappy. Father and son get on well together, but can Menashe take care of Rieven properly? Not really for all his goodwill as he holds down a low-paid job as a grocery clerk that consumes too much of his efforts and energy. Always late, always in a hurry, he endeavors to improve himself though. But will his efforts be enough to convince the rabbi that he can be a good father without a wife at home?Written by
The price tag on fatherhood soars when tradition knocks on your door. Orthodoxy antagonizes the downtrodden, and fortune is monopolized by the most religious adherents. Yiddish mumbles separate father from son. Songs of lament ring through thin apartment walls. The rambunctious laughter of Menashe's child is limited to sidewalk engagements.
Employee of the month every month, Menashe is invaluable to his dictatorial boss at the borough's cultural specific grocery front. This distinction is not established by Menashe's work ethic, but rather by his attention to detail. With Hispanic co-workers, his Hasidic sensibilities garner favor with his Jewish supervisor. Menashe truly desires the best for the customers, and even if the man in charge cannot accommodate, the sentiment is appreciated with stern denials.
Approaching a year since the most bitter sweet loss of his self- contained life, Menashe is finally heeding his Rabbi's instructions, albeit halfheartedly. He submits to uncomfortable appointments in hopes of restoring a household. He is attempting to regain one person, by courting another.
His book speaks of man's inadequacy void of a woman. The Torah crafts a tale of interdependence, and his leadership point at passages to bolster his grief. The community cares for his son above him, and he cares for his son above all else. The walls of domesticity have tumbled, and he is the remaining survivor in Jericho.
A man cannot be expected to run a home and a livelihood, Menashe is reminded by his financially obese brother-in-law. The division in duties is divinely appointed, and Menashe's spiritual juggling can be blamed for his misfortune. His orthodoxy begins to slip. His coat and hat creep out of his closet, and he studies haphazardly.
What Menashe lacks in observance, he corrects with compassion. He is zealous but in an unconventional manner. He mimics his creator when he horses around with his only child. The abandon and whimsy of Menashe infects the boy, and together they create a fuller home than any other formal nuclear family. The uncompromising devotion to one's offspring might just rewrite thousands of years of tradition.
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