The way life and social conditions produce unexpected impulses and attractions provides “Round Trip” with some powerful if underdeveloped themes. Director Shahar Rosen and writer Noa Grinberg create a fine example of sophisticated and cosmopolitan adult drama that pops up on Israeli television, in some ways distinctly different from the high-end tube equivalents in either the U.S. or U.K., where the writer tends to dominate. Both general and gay-and-lesbian fests will find this a quality programmer, but the drama’s subdued manner will restrict it to small-screen foreign markets.
There’s an unstated but clear symbolism in how bus driver Nurit’s (Anat Waxman) circular route in the northern Israeli town of Qiryat Shemone matches the aimlessness of her vacuous marriage. Terming it a job, Nurit wants some time off from matrimony to explore new options in Tel Aviv, where she takes her two reluctant and unhappy kids.
But the new life soon begins to resemble the old one, since Nurit is a working-class woman with no skills beyond the ones behind the wheel, and no real chance of transforming her existence. The kids are too much to handle alone, but Nurit seems to let pride momentarily stop her from hiring a live-in maid. So, when undocumented Nigerian home worker Mushidi (Nathati Moshesh) enters the scene, it just feels like one more step toward settling down in the big, mean city. But Nurit and Mushidi gradually gain each other’s confidence, friendship and, finally, love.
Waxman and Moshesh are like co-conspirators with Rosen and Grinberg in making these transitions play like natural steps in a process that can bring together lonely working women seeking basic human contact. The script makes the dramatically easy choice of having the affair exposed to the rest of Nurit’s family, which results in simplifying a complex situation. But Rosen’s directorial instincts have a way of injecting nuance and texture into what could have turned into excessive melodrama. She even makes Nurit’s final return back home interestingly irresolute, suggesting either a continued dead-end life or revived family bonding.
Waxman carries the movie to a large extent with her sinewy, slightly beaten-down manner, and Moshesh never is tempted to create a trite, angelic character who will save our heroine. Tech package is excellent.