×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Seven Days

The searing intensity of "To Take a Wife" turns into overly diffused heat in Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz's follow-up family drama "The Seven Days."

With:
With: Ronit Elkabetz, Albert Illouz, Yael Abecassis, Simon Abkarian, Hana Laslo, Moshe Ivgy, Keren Mor, Alon Aboutboul, Evelin Hagoel, Rafi Amzaleg, Hanna Azoulay Hasfari, Gil Frank, Ruby Shoval, David Ohayon, Sulika Kadosh, Yechiel Elkabetz, Orit Sher, Dikla Elkaslassi, Rucharna Malcha, Mali Gad Or, Daniel Gad, Ben Ravid. (Hebrew, French and German dialogue)

The searing intensity of “To Take a Wife” turns into overly diffused heat in Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz’s follow-up family drama “The Seven Days.” Revisiting the unhappy couple from the first extraordinary feature, the sibling helmers expand the characters and open a Pandora’s Box of festering resentment and jealousies, creating so many highs and lows that the dramatic arc becomes a repetitive series of peaks and valleys. There’s still power in this story of a traditional Jewish family observing the requisite seven days of mourning, but few concentrated emotional returns. Finding auds outside Jewish fests will be an uphill battle.

In a visually significant move designed to encompass a fuller range of family dynamics, pic is shot in widescreen, opening on a scene of deep grieving by the graveside of a beloved brother. Since this is set in the Israeli town of Kiryat Yam during the 1991 Gulf War, mourners carry gas masks: between the high-pitched level of hysteria at the open tomb and the incongruous site of the black-clad figures hastily donning their masks, auds can be expected to question whether to laugh or cry.

“Shiva,” the required seven-day period of mourning during which immediate family members remain together indoors, is held in the home of the deceased’s widow Ilana (Keren Mor). The six remaining brothers and two sisters of the Ohaion family, along with matriarch Hanina (Sulika Kadosh) and assorted in-laws crowd in for what’s to become a long week of recriminations and reopened wounds, all set inside the house except for the bookmarking scenes at the grave.

Sister Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz), the main focus of “To Take a Wife,” is thankfully separated from husband Eliyahu (Simon Abkarian), though he’s hanging around hoping to get her back. Brother Haim (Moshe Ivgy) is facing financial ruin thanks to a collapsed factory business: despite employing his siblings and paying them overly generous salaries, no one is willing to make the necessary sacrifices to help.

All the male members enforce a strict adherence to orthodox Moroccan Jewish traditions of mourning that has everything to do with controlling the womenfolk and nothing to do with collectively assuaging their grief. As the days pass by with little to do but pray and eat, alliances keep shifting and pent-up tensions come to a boil as the imprisoning reality of communal family life takes its toll.

Anyone who grew up within a large, ostensibly close-knit family will recognize types here, from the busybody yenta Therese (Ruby Shoval) and her spinster sister Evelyne (Evelin Hagoel) rarely seen out of the kitchen, to arrogant yet cowardly brother Jacques (Rafi Amzaleg) and his profoundly unhappy wife Lili (Yael Abecassis). Riding a wave of success on Haim’s coattails, they all grasp onto the trappings of middle-class life with selfish determination, revealing the tenuousness of blood ties when money is involved.

Unquestionably the helmers are intimately familiar with these dynamics, but their script’s structure gives equal time to everyone, forcing each episode to compete. Still, a few scenes both quiet and explosive stand out: a meeting between the brothers chillingly reveals their cowardly ends, while a blow-up between Viviane and her bitter sister Simone (Hanna Azoulay Hasfari) is an exhaustive emotional knockout. Calibrating the rest isn’t so successful, and a much-needed outburst of laughter when they’ve all bedded down for the night in one room only goes halfway in providing the needed cathartic break.

Unsurprisingly, thesping is flawless, and the ensemble cast, largely made up of top Israeli performers, work together seamlessly. Ronit Elkabetz (“The Band’s Visit”) of course is a highlight, but so too are the seething Azoulay Hasfari and her more tempered but equally impressive male colleagues — it’s hard to single out one performer when they seem to share completely in this family’s pain and culpability.

Pairing again with d.p. Yaron Scharf, the Elkabetzes once more prove their controlled and sophisticated eye, here taking full advantage of scope lensing that favors wide-angle shots to alternately isolate family members and reinforce their cohesion. The camera largely remains static (contributing to the sense of a family unable to budge), and scenes with everyone gathered together in an almost unnaturally close grouping resemble a tightly packed Greek chorus acting out their own tragedy. The additional anxiety of the war is treated as a matter-of-fact aside while adding an extra dimension of tension.

The Seven Days

Israel-France

Production: A Thaleia Prods. (France)/July August Production, EZ Films (Israel) production, with the participation of the Rabinovich Fund, Yes TV, Keshet TV, Canal Plus. (International sales: Les Films du Losange, Paris.) Produced by Jean-Philippe Reza, Eilon Ratzkovsky, Yochanan Kredo, Yossi Uzard, Guy Jacoel, Eric Cohen, Elie Meirovitz. Directed, written by Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Yaron Scharf; editor, Joelle Alexis; music, Michel Korb, Sergio Leonardi; production designer, Benny Arbitman; costume designer, Laura Sheim; sound (Dolby SRD), Itay Elohev, Aviv Aldema, Herve Buirette; line producer, Anat Shafranek. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival -- Critics' Week (opening), May 15, 2008. Running time: 115 MIN.

With: With: Ronit Elkabetz, Albert Illouz, Yael Abecassis, Simon Abkarian, Hana Laslo, Moshe Ivgy, Keren Mor, Alon Aboutboul, Evelin Hagoel, Rafi Amzaleg, Hanna Azoulay Hasfari, Gil Frank, Ruby Shoval, David Ohayon, Sulika Kadosh, Yechiel Elkabetz, Orit Sher, Dikla Elkaslassi, Rucharna Malcha, Mali Gad Or, Daniel Gad, Ben Ravid. (Hebrew, French and German dialogue)

More Film

  • With PGA win, 'Green Book' is

    Oscars: With PGA Victory, 'Green Book' Becomes Best Picture Frontrunner

    Save for a pair of recent back-to-back discrepancies in “The Big Short” and “La La Land,” the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Theatrical Motion Pictures has been a fairly reliable barometer for the annual Oscar season outcome. At least, ever since both the PGA and film Academy expanded their top categories, sharing the [...]

  • Peter Farrelly30th Annual Producers Guild Awards,

    PGA Awards: 'Green Book' Wins Top Feature Film Award

    “Green Book” has won the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award as the top feature film of 2018. The 1960s drama-comedy topped “BlacKkKlansman,” “Black Panther” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite,”  “A Quiet Place,” “Roma,” “A Star Is Born” and “Vice. More Reviews Film Review: ‘Dragon Ball Super: Broly’ Film Review: 'Who Will Write [...]

  • Netflix HQ LA

    Andy Gruenberg, Veteran Film Executive, Dies at 68

    Veteran film executive Andy Gruenberg, who most recently oversaw theatrical distribution at Netflix, died suddenly on Friday. He was 68. Gruenberg worked on classic films like “Ghostbusters,” “Karate Kid” and “Silverado” while at Columbia Pictures in the 80s and 90s. More Reviews Film Review: ‘Dragon Ball Super: Broly’ Film Review: 'Who Will Write Our History' [...]

  • Fyre Festival Caterer Receives Thousands in

    Unpaid Fyre Festival Caterer Raises Thousands in Donations on GoFundMe

    As two Fyre Festival documentaries hit the airwaves, a couple who say their credit was ruined due to the Fyre Festival’s lack of payment for their services have raised $54,381 at time of publication on GoFundMe. Elvis and Maryann Rolle wrote on their page that they catered “no less than 1000 meals per day” in [...]

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Author Tony Mendez arrives at the

    Tony Mendez, Former CIA Officer Depicted in 'Argo,' Dies at 78

    Tony Mendez, the former CIA technical operations officer who orchestrated the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats from Iran and who was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” has died. He was 78. Mendez’s book agent, Christy Fletcher, announced the news on Twitter Saturday morning. More Reviews Film Review: ‘Dragon [...]

  • Glass Movie

    'Glass' to Rank in Top 3 MLK Debuts With $48 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is on its way to a solid debut with an estimated $48 million for the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. A sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2017’s “Split,” the Universal superhero thriller should bring in around $41 million from 3,841 domestic locations over the Friday through Sunday period. The estimates are [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content