IT ALL BEGINS AT SEA ** Written and directed by Eitan Green. Hebrew title: Hakol Matchil b'Yam. 95 minutes. In Hebrew, some prints have English titles. With Yuval Segal, Dorit Lev-Ari, Ron Jaegermann, Tzahi Grad, Asher Tsarfati The portentous title, It All Begins at Sea, gives you an idea of what you're in for with this movie. Directed by Eitan Green, it tells the story of an emblematic family at three critical moments of their life. It is modest in its scope, intelligently put together and well acted - but something is missing. Two things, actually: Compelling characters and strong narrative interest. It's not insufferable, but as you watch it, you'll wait for the well-crafted pieces of this puzzle to come together, expecting there to be some kind of payoff. It never comes, and what you're left with is a family drama that deals with melodramatic situations, without the extravagant fun and over-the-top acting of a soap opera. Green, a veteran Israeli director, focuses on the Goldsteins. The family is comprised of Dina (Dorit Lev-Ari), the quarrelsome mother, Yehuda (Yuval Segal), the more easy-going father, and Udi (Ron Jaegermann), their much beloved, curious son. In the first section, they spend a day at the beach where they bicker, run into neighbors, and go for a swim. But when the mattress that Udi and Dina are drifting on suddenly floats out too far, there is some drama in this otherwise dull scene. The message that danger lurks even in the most banal situations is telegraphed loud and clear. But since they continue to bicker even as they are getting rescued, you may find yourself thinking not of the illusion of safety we have most of the time, but of what morons they are for floating out on an air mattress if they can't swim. In the second section, Udi gets into a freak accident on a school trip that ends in a hospital stay. Once again, it seems we can't even fall backwards off high rocks without courting tragedy. Before the accident, Udi peeks at a soldier and his girlfriend having sex in a car, which turns this into a coming-of-age drama of sorts. The most unrealistic part of this section is the fact that the parents are perfectly nice to the guide who supervised Udi's class trip while he is recovering in the hospital, neither chewing her out or threaten to sue. In the last section, there is a bit about Udi trying to find a girlfriend. The real focus, though, is how his parents leave him alone because they have just had a premature baby girl who is hospitalized. As in the previous sections, seemingly innocent actions have dire consequences. Several characters pop up in each section. I'm sure there must be some deeper meaning other than that Israel is a small country and you're always bumping into the same people - but I couldn't tell you what. There's a lifeguard who may or may not be gay and a Russian family who seem to be the smartest people in the neighborhood. I'm too far away from college to give a cogent analysis of what these people may symbolize, but if you're looking for a paper subject, then check out It All Begins at Sea. If you want to see an engaging drama that says something about family, love or contemporary Israeli life, look elsewhere.