Review: ‘Things Behind The Sun’

Tyro helmer-scribe Yuval Shafferman serves his dysfunctional family straight up in "Things Behind the Sun."

Tyro helmer-scribe Yuval Shafferman serves his dysfunctional family straight up in “Things Behind the Sun” — no quirkiness, no sense of humor, just assorted angst neatly parsed among a deadbeat son, lesbian daughter, repressed-artist wife and empty, anomie-stricken husband. The only one to escape the family curse is the youngest girl, a 10-year-old unplanned “accident” who occupies the pic’s unblinking center. Though well grounded in regular Tel Aviv itineraries and sparked by an Ophir-winning perf by venerable star Assi Dayan, pic’s unrelenting gloom and largely unsympathetic characters are unlikely to travel far.

When Izhak (Dayan) hears that his estranged father, whom he hasn’t seen for 10 years, is on his deathbed, the news churns up long-dead emotions in a man who has apparently forgotten how to feel. Pic opens on Izhak sitting in his office, staring at the camera, seemingly disconnected even from his own thoughts.

The father’s death throes coincide with two major events in the family: the return of Izhak’s prodigal daughter Namma (Tali Sharon) and the opening of Izhak’s wife’s (Sandra Sade) art show at a downtown gallery.

Closeted lesbian Namma spreads her ill humor liberally until she meets a sexy blonde waitress (Hilla Vidor) and transfers her need to be the focus of all attention onto her hapless new g.f. Mom hides her revealing, highly unflattering nude portraits of her brood until the opening night of her show, where they are well received by everyone except the shocked subjects.

Meanwhile, 27-year-old son Amit (Zohar Shtrauss), still living at home and working part-time as a pizza delivery guy, lies in bed smoking pot and making snide remarks laced with snarky anger and self-loathing.

Little Didish (Tesh Hashiloni), whose unwavering stare would be creepy were it not aimed at the bigger creeps around him, sneaks out to visit the comatose grandpa she does not remember.

Shafferman excels at contextualizing his characters, their aimless claims to self-importance wryly reflected in Ariel Roshko’s spaciously self-effacing set design or in the huge TV screen the side of the highway Izhak travels along on his daily pilgrimages to the hospital.

Except for vet Dayan and tyro juve Hashiloni, though, thesps cannot do much with their navel-gazing roles, and are left pretty much adrift in an extremely shallow backwash.

Tech credits are pro.

Things Behind The Sun

Israel

Production

An Israel Film Fund, Paralite Prods. presentation of a Paralite production. (International sales: Paralite Prods., Tel Aviv.) Produced by Einat Bikel, Uri Sabag. Directed, written by Yuval Shafferman.

Crew

Camera (color), Valentin Belonogov; editor, Yosef Grunfeld; music, Ariel Blumenthal; art director, Ariel Roshko; sound (Dolby Digital), David Lis; casting, Orit Azoulay. Reviewed at Israeli Film Festival, New York, Nov. 4, 2007. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Assi Dayan, Tess Hashiloni, Sandra Sade, Tali Sharon, Zohar Shtrauss, Hilla Vidor, Rozina Cambos. (Hebrew dialogue)
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