Moving – in more ways than one

Go out and see ‘Indoors’ INDOORS Hebrew title: Hadrei Habayit Directed by Eitan Green With Yuval Segal, Ido Zaid, Osnat Fishman Running time: 109 minutes In Hebrew. Check with theaters for subtitle information.

‘Indoors’ (photo credit: PR)
(photo credit: PR)
At the heart of Eitan Green’s film Indoors is a moving look at the relationship between a father who struggles with financial pressures and his teenage son, who is just starting to look around and decide what kind of adult he wants to be. These two characters may represent familiar types, but they are brought to life with great intensity and elegance by Yuval Segal as Rami, the father, and Ido Zaid as Doron, the son.
Indoors is an interesting snapshot of what life in Israel is really like for many today, in the best and worst ways. A contractor, Rami wants to make a better life for his family. The way he does it is by building and moving them into a bigger, nicer apartment. The fact that they can’t afford it is a detail he thinks he can overcome.
The apartment is located in one of those generic new Jerusalem neighborhoods that all look exactly alike. It could be Arnona, Ramat Sharett, Pisgat Ze’ev or another half-dozen places. Israelis today want to live on suburbanlooking, character-free streets in spacious apartments that are impossible to afford on a typical Israeli salary. How people manage to get apartments like the one Rami moves his family into is a subject fraught with great drama (if you want to hear deep emotion, listen to Israelis talking about their apartments and their mortgages) but one that is mostly ignored in movies and fiction in general.
The film opens just after Rami, his wife, Dassie (Osnat Fishman), and Doron have moved into the apartment, which Rami, who is educated enough to be a contractor but has the soul and skills of an architect, has designed and built. He has sunk so much money into it that he can’t afford to pay the Arab workers who built it and have worked on some of his other projects, as well as those who have supplied him with building materials. He has used the family’s savings to finance various developments, aimed at people like him, who are dying for nice new apartments. But when a worker is injured at one of the building sites, work has to stop until a government inspector can make a report, and this will delay any profit Rami hopes to earn.
Dassie, who is a nurse, goes off to Romania on a long project, and Doron is having trouble adjusting to the new neighborhood. Rami, preoccupied with his problems, leaves him alone a lot. Doron finds solace in playing on his school basketball team. Meanwhile, unpaid workers, who go from disgruntled to furious to threatening, are staking out the new apartment. Rami has to take Doron to go and live with his brother-in-law (Danny Steg) and newly Orthodox sister-in-law (Sharon Ingrid Shtark), a situation where no one feels comfortable.
Rami descends into despair over the loss of his dream house and his inability to pay his workers as his business crumbles and his son watches helplessly as the father he loves falls apart.
The film is an odd combination of graceful, understated acting and storytelling and occasional moments when it hammers home certain messages. For example, Rami is of Mizrahi descent, and Doron is disappointed to learn that this means he can’t call himself a third-generation Holocaust survivor, as he is studying the Holocaust at school.
There are several unsubtle Holocaust references that drag the story down. And the whole film is obviously meant to be a skewering of what the Israeli dream has turned into.
But Green’s humane storytelling overcomes his preachier impulses.
One of the film’s virtues is its accuracy in portraying the ways that Israelis and Arabs work together — not without conflict — in the building trade.
The rapport between the two lead actors is wonderful and makes this story into something deeper than just social commentary on middle-class striving; but the striving is what sets the drama in motion and keeps it going. The relationships between the characters and the plot are intricately woven together, and this is a movie that illuminates contemporary Israel as few films do.