(Hebrew and English dialogue)
Freshman Israeli director David Kreiner gives cinematic shape to semi-autobiographical material in “There Was No War in ’72,” an engaging light drama about a father-son dysfunctional relationship that manages a few unfamiliar riffs on a familiar tune. A very likable pic, despite occasional stumbles, this is model Eurotube/fest fare.
Yoni (Adam Abulafia) is a withdrawn 14-year-old who’s been bullied all his life by his businessman father (Shmuel Edelman) and ends up expelled from school for poor grades. Against the father’s wishes, his American mother (Ava Haddad) tries to get him into another school, and meanwhile hires a sexy neighbor, Ruthi (Nataly Atia), to coach him privately in math.
Yoni, however, is rapidly turning into a rebel without a cause, preferring to hang out with his friends, play in a band and generally spike his father’s guns at every opportunity. When the kid nixes an opportunity to go to a respectable boarding school, and the mother is discovered romancing a doctor (Elon Eysh), the family seems on the edge of disintegration.
Pic’s neatest touch is the way it unexpectedly switches the audience’s sympathies from the troublesome teen toward the bull-headed father, as Yoni consistently rejects all of his elder’s well-meaning attempts at rapprochement and even snitches on his mom when she’s spotted with her lover. (The character has more than a few parallels with the obdurate Antoine Doinel in Truffaut’s “The Four Hundred Blows.”)
The movie’s other plus is its broad sketching of a whole range of characters in a light dramatic style rather than simply stoking the drama between father and son. Though the film draws heavily on Kreiner’s relationship with his father , it makes dramatic sense on its own terms and is more than even-handed with its characters. Pic never plumbs any great emotional depths but has a generosity of spirit that’s surprising in the circumstances.
In what could have been just a one-note performance, Edelman is excellent as the father, Abulafia completely believable as his equally stubborn son. In a difficult role (switching between English and Hebrew), Haddad is sympathetic as the mom, and in dress and attitude accurately mirrors the early-’70s setting.
Occasional scenes, such as a dinner party with business guests, are awkwardly handled, but overall Kreiner’s direction is smooth and unfussy. Tech credits on the Super-16mm blowup are fine.