The Good Person is an interesting, atmospheric movie that is both a character study of a female moviemaker facing a personal and professional crisis and a look at how religion and secular life can become intertwined in a city like Jerusalem.
The director, Eitan Anner, made A Quiet Heart, a movie that looks at a young woman facing tensions with her ultra-Orthodox neighbors in the Kiryat Yovel section of Jerusalem a few years ago. The Good Person stars Moran Rosenblatt as Sharon, a filmmaker devoted to making serious movies that empower women.
What is it about?
But she returns from a festival abroad to find that her life is in crisis. Her estranged husband wants her out of his life and will no longer help her financially with the debt that she is drowning in (which is a sad reality of the lives of many indie filmmakers).
She is at the end of her rope, living in an empty apartment, since everything she owned has been repossessed by the bank, and facing a bleak future. With no prospects, she takes a meeting with a commercial producer whose approach is anathema to her and he suggests she sign on to make the comeback vehicle for Rabbi Uzi Silver (Rami Heuberger), an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who was once a filmmaker and who gave up his wild secular lifestyle to devote himself to religion decades ago.
The rabbi’s character is clearly based, at least superficially, on Uri Zohar. A generous budget has already been allocated by a film fund and there is a built-in audience because many remember Silver and are fascinated to see what he has to say after all these years. The rabbi will only meet in an out-of-the-way location with a panoramic view of the city and she senses he is toying with her but Sharon pushes ahead, determined to make it work in spite of her misgivings.
WHILE IT all comes together easily, she quickly learns what the catch is: The movie is about King Saul. When she asks to see the script, he hands her a bible, so she seeks out an old friend to write a screenplay. The rabbi will play the aging king and he wants his wife to play his queen, which seems fine since she is an actress who joined him in the religious life, also giving up on her career. All this, Sharon can handle. But then it turns out that other than Sharon and his wife, he doesn’t want any other women on the set.
This last condition, not surprisingly, would be a dealbreaker for Sharon if she were not at such a low point in her life. But she pushes on and in the process discovers some secrets the rabbi has hidden, which include the real reason he has returned to filmmaking.
Once the plot gets going, the movie, beautifully filmed in artsy black-and-white, has a hard time finding its tone. The situation is inherently comic – a feminist forced by circumstances to make a movie with a star who wants to exclude women from the set – but the tone is often mournful as if we are meant to find her predicament tragic.
It’s not clear whether the rabbi, who is often manipulative and arrogant, is meant to reflect a different kind of tragedy of how a talented man gave up his career and wants to go back to the arts but isn’t sure he has anything left to say. It also may be a metaphor for how the ultra-Orthodox have taken a more dominant role in Israeli life. But none of these themes comes into focus as you hope they will at the beginning.
Moran Rosenblatt and Rami Heuberger are two of the most popular Israeli actors and both of them have a talent for disappearing into their roles to the extent that you may not recognize them right away from movie to movie.
Rosenblatt has appeared in ingenue roles in Fauda, Apples from the Desert and a number of other films but is starting to portray more complex characters.
Heuberger, who most recently played Moshe Dayan in Golda and also appeared in the TV series, Manayek, gives an appropriately enigmatic performance here and you believe that he is a charismatic figure who has charmed many. But there isn’t the kind of tension, sexual or other, between his character and Sharon. Their scenes are the heart of the movie but they never sizzle and because of this, The Good Person is an intelligent film with an intriguing premise but doesn’t quite come to life.
‘The Good Person’ opens next week in Israeli theaters.