×

Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi

Boy's long-overlooked intellectual gifts surface in spite of a chaotic family environment in Shemi Zarhin's sweet if slight Israeli comedy. Writer-director has fashioned a talky but well-paced film that nicely captures the lives of a clan spanning three generations. U.S. spring opening care of Strand will perform along lines of a modest art film release.

With:
Shlomi Bardayan - Oshri Cohen Grandfather - Arie Elias Ruhama Bardayan - Esti Zakhem Rona - Aya Koren Principal - Yigal Naor Robert Bardayan - Albert Illouz Doron - Jonathan Rozen Ziva - Rotem Abuhav Sasi - Assi Cohen Tehila - Rotem Zisman Begin - Nisso Khavia Rona - Aya Steinovitz

A boy’s long-overlooked intellectual gifts surface in spite of a chaotic family environment in “Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi,” Shemi Zarhin’s sweet if slight Israeli comedy. The writer-director of past hits “Passover Fever” and “Dangerous Acts” has fashioned an exceptionally talky but well-paced coming-of-age film that nicely captures the lives of a clan spanning three generations, while mixing in formulaic elements that helped make it a local B.O. hit, with a just-concluded 40-week theatrical run. Planned U.S. spring opening care of Strand will perform along the lines of a modest art film release.

Sixteen-year-old Shlomi (Oshri Cohen) appears to be a typical teenage boy — seeking to “upgrade” (read: have sex) with new g.f. Tehila (Rotem Zisman), bored with his high school classes and eavesdropping on beautiful 17-year-old neighbor Rona (Aya Koren).

At home, though, Shlomi’s the loving caregiver for his senile grandfather (Arie Elias) and the fulltime peacemaker between the various combatants in his family circle. His pestering and gruff mother Ruhama (Esti Zakhem) works as a nurse, and butts heads with the whole clan, including grandfather, eldest guitar-playing son Doron (Jonathan Rozen) and especially her divorced husband Robert (Albert Illouz), who’s a hopeless hypochondriac.

There’s a sense in the early reels that pic is spinning its wheels with a multitude of “cute” exchanges between Shlomi and grandfather and other conversations that establish Shlomi as an incredibly decent, selfless boy surrounded by a bunch of semi-kooks. (His only naughty streak is a habit of snooping looks at Doron’s sexually boastful diary.) Shlomi also makes elaborate desserts and likes poetry.

At school, Shlomi’s math teacher (Nisso Khavia) discovers the boy has a talent for numbers, and soon Principal (Yigal Naor) begins to take an interest when Shlomi displays an extraordinary gift for calculations. However, there is a perceptible gap between the boy’s need to go to an academy which can nurture his skills and his parents’ assumption that Shlomi is either slow or dyslexic, and is primarily useful to them as a kind of assistant mother.

Pic displays an audience-pleasing knack for juggling amusing and arch incidents and sub-plots — the sweetest one being the up-and-down-and-up passions that grow between Shlomi and Rona, who Shlomi mistakenly thinks is having an affair with one of Doron’s pals — with large chunks of acid-tongued dialogue.

Cast appears in sync with Zarhin’s human comedy. Cohen quietly tones down what on paper is an impossibly romanticized teen character. Zakhem revels in mother Ruhama’s obsessions and tart observations and put-downs, and Naor balances the domestic craziness with a sober portrait of a good pedagogue.

DV-to-film transfer preserves the film’s sunny look, and art director Ariel Glazer creates a suitably messy home setting for Shlomi’s stress-filled family life. French title, suggested by Strand according to Zarhin, refers to the standard daily greeting between grandfather and Shlomi and replaces the original Hebrew title which translates as “Shlomi’s Stars.”

Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi

Israel

Production: A Strand Releasing release of an Evanstone presentation of a Eitan Evan production. (International sales: Media Luna Entertainment, Cologne.) Produced by Eitan Evan. Directed, written by Shemi Zarhin .

Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Itzik Portal; editor, Einat Glaser Zarhin; music, Jonathan Bar-Giora; art director, Ariel Glazer; costume designer, Inbal Shuki; sound (Dolby SR), Eli Yarkoni; casting, Esther Kling. Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival, Jan. 11, 2004. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: Shlomi Bardayan - Oshri Cohen Grandfather - Arie Elias Ruhama Bardayan - Esti Zakhem Rona - Aya Koren Principal - Yigal Naor Robert Bardayan - Albert Illouz Doron - Jonathan Rozen Ziva - Rotem Abuhav Sasi - Assi Cohen Tehila - Rotem Zisman Begin - Nisso Khavia Rona - Aya Steinovitz

More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content