Cannes Film Review: ‘One Week and a Day’

A shaggy hangout movie that puts the "high" in l'chayim.

'One Week and a Day' Review - Cannes Film Festival 2016

Putting the “high” in l’chayim, “One Week and a Day” is a shaggy hangout movie set largely over the day after an Israeli couple’s shiva, or ritual morning period, for their 25-year-old son has ended. It’s a time when the husband and wife have to deal with returning to their daily activities, a process to which her approach is essentially to act as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened and to which his reaction is to get seriously blazed. A creditable debut from the American-born, Israeli-raised writer-director Asaph Polonsky, who attended the AFI conservatory’s program for directing, “One Week and a Day” is probably too low-key and inconsequential to attract a sizable audience outside the festival circuit — the humor is more smiles than outright laughs — but it makes a mildly crowd-pleasing vehicle for the Israeli comedian Shai Avivi.

The movie opens with Eyal Spivak (Avivi) whupping some children at ping-pong, a pastime that he approaches far too aggressively and that has apparently kept him occupied during the boredom that’s set in over the weeklong shiva period. He takes umbrage when his next-door neighbors, Shmulik and Keren (Sharon Alexander and Carmit Mesilati-Kaplan), who’ve been ignoring him, deign to show up on the last day, and then that evening have loud sex that Eyal can hear from the room of his late son, Ronnie.

And then, it’s back to normal. Eyal’s wife, Vicky (Evgenia Dodina), keeps up appearances, trying to oust the substitute teacher who’s filling in for her, going for a jog, sticking to a dental appointment. Eyal’s priority, meanwhile, seems to be retrieving the remainder of their son’s medical cannabis from the hospice. (In a tiresome running gag, he attempts to hide it in his fly.) Uncertain of how to respond to deeply unfamiliar emotions — Avivi wears a near-constant expression of irritation throughout the film — he opts for what for him is the deeply defamiliarizing experience of getting stoned.

But Eyal’s failure to roll a usable joint — he finds that a gummy worm isn’t a good adhesive — causes him to enlist the help of Shmulik and Keren’s son, called by his last name, Zooler (Tomer Kapon), who takes the day off from his job as a delivery boy to teach Eyal how to get high and to play air guitar to bad pop music. The dynamic between the two men leads to funny sight gags, as when Zooler trashes his motorbike to make an excuse for work or when he and Eyal continue puffing away in the background even as Vicky keeps a tutoring appointment with a pupil who’s already mortified about being there. (These, and a bizarre series of push-ins during Vicky’s dental X-rays, represent a rare break form the movie’s generally undistinguished visuals.)

The subtext may be that the burial of a child has historically hardly been unusual in Israel, though by making the son’s death from cancer and not from military service, Polonsky seems largely uninterested in going there. Rather, the focus is on how petty hassles persist even when sadness requires putting life on hold. When Eyal and Zooler make a mad-dash effort to reserve the burial plots next to Ronnie, they stumble into another funeral, and Polonsky crosscuts between a man’s eulogy for his sister and a montage of that man’s efforts to clean excrement off his windshield. The somewhat trite moral that time (and marijuana) can heal all wounds isn’t the meatiest concept on which to hang a movie, especially one that keeps its characters’ inner lives one-dimensional. (Ronnie’s life, too, is kept resolutely offscreen.) But this sentimental film takes things one step at a time.

Cannes Film Review: ‘One Week and a Day’

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week), May 15, 2016. Running time: <strong>98 MIN.</strong> (Original title: "Shavua Ve Yom")

  • Production: (Israel) A Black Sheep production. (International sales: New Europe Film Sales, Warsaw.) Produced by Saar Yogev, Naomi Levari.
  • Crew: Directed, written by Asaph Polonsky. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Moshe Mishali; editor, Tali Halter Shenkar; music, Tamar Aphek, Ran Bagno; production designer, Yoav Sinai; costume designer, Chen Oshri; sound, Aviv Aldema; line producer, Boaz Vexler; casting, Esther Kling.
  • With: Shai Avivi, Evgenia Dodina, Tomer Kapon, Alona Shauloff, Sharon Alexander, Carmit Mesilati-Kaplan, Uri Gavriel. (Hebrew dialogue)