Movie review: Discoveries in 'Lost and Found'

After seeing one too many movies about alienation and unhappy families in Tel Aviv, I came up with TAMP, which stands for Tel Aviv's Miserable People.

lost and found 224.88 (photo credit: )
lost and found 224.88
(photo credit: )
THREE STARS Last year, after seeing one too many movies about alienation and unhappy families in Tel Aviv, I coined a name for this genre: TAMP, which stands for Tel Aviv's Miserable People and is shorthand for a movie that is cliché-ridden, predictable and barely watchable. These days, whenever a new Israeli movie comes out, the question arises: Is it a TAMP movie or isn't it? With Savi Gabizon's latest film, Lost and Found, I couldn't make up my mind. This is unprecedented: Normally, a movie is TAMP, or it isn't. But Lost and Found is either the best film of this genre and proves that it is possible to make a decent TAMP film, or it resembles a TAMP movie but isn't really one. Let's consider the evidence, then you can make the call. Lost and Found does feature many of the genre's hallmarks: It focuses on an unhappy Tel Aviv family; it takes place largely inside apartments; there is an elderly father in a coma (we've seen this in Things Behind the Sun and a couple of other films and it usually symbolizes the patriarch's impotence and the breakdown of values); a late-in-life unexpected pregnancy that stands for a deeper barrenness (Year Zero, the still unreleased Bittersweet); and the characters suffer from a generalized malaise (this is true of all TAMP films). But although Gabizon may have intended to go TAMP, his skill at writing entertaining, quirky dialogue and his talent in directing his actors and getting the best out of them has prevailed and, for the most part, he transcends his chosen genre. What finally won me over was the fact that there are actually memorable scenes here. When you leave a TAMP film, it's all a blur of agonized, self-centered rants and you can barely remember it five minutes later, except for the most general details (Assi Dayan was in it, or he wasn't, for example). Director Gabizon - best known for Nina's Tragedies, starring Ayelet Zurer, and Lovesick on Nana Street with Moshe Ivgy - has chosen again to work with some of Israel's best-known actors. Lost and Found stars Alon Abutbul as Dudi, a psychiatrist, and Maya Dagan as Tamara, his wife, who works in some media-related field. Her sister, Mia (Sarah Adler), a writer who lives in New York, has returned to Israel because their father is seriously ill. But since he is in a coma and shows no signs of coming out of it, she decides to go back to the US. She is also fleeing a certain romantic tension between her and her brother-in-law. Tamara is having a not-very-passionate affair with Beri (Lior Ashkenazi), a married man, and in spite of her infidelity, insists that she cares very much about her marriage. When an obstacle to Mia's leaving Israel comes up, she chooses not to stay with Tamara and Dudi again, but visits Gili (Zohar Strauss), a soft-spoken, gentle old friend who is passionately in love with her. Two events begin to cause tension in unexpected ways: Tamara discovers she is pregnant and a publisher expresses interest in Mia's book. What is less believable is a violent act committed by an otherwise normal character who is supposedly pushed to the breaking point. This mars the film somewhat, but not as much as it might have, since the last few scenes of the film are unpredictable, memorable and extremely well-written. It's a rare film that gathers steam as it goes on rather than starting well and petering out, but Lost and Found manages that difficult feat. What pulls everything together are the wonderful performances by the actors. Sarah Adler, who was last seen as the heroine of Jellyfish, is the standout. She always seems to be thinking about something she's afraid to say, and you watch her wanting to know what that is. Maya Dagan is believable in a rather thankless role and Lior Ashkenazi has a few good moments. Alon Abutbul doesn't do his most subtle work here, but his role is the least convincingly written and the most problematic. It was a healing experience for me to watch Abutbul and Ashkenazi here, since I last saw them in the execrable Wild Dogs. Now I'll be able to think of them as Tel Aviv yuppies forever, I hope. Two actresses in supporting roles have show-stopping moments, both comic and dramatic. Television actress Michal Gavrielov is very funny as a co-worker of Tamara's who isn't afraid to say what she thinks out loud, while Liron Vaisman Sheferman (who was also in Jellyfish) delivers some unforgettable dialogue. Gabizon's theme seems to be the passions buried under the façade of modern, mature people, as it was in his previous films. For the most part, he pulls off the task of making us care for these people, and we even identify with their predicaments. Had Tamara and Dudi been more distinctive characters, the film would have worked better. In the end, it is a strong enough film to make the question - TAMP: yes or no - moot.