Family matters

‘The Kind Words’ aims to please.

‘The Kind Words’ movie (photo credit: PR)
‘The Kind Words’ movie
(photo credit: PR)
Hebrew title Hamilim Hatovot
Written and directed by Shemi Zarhin
With Rotem Zissman-Cohen, Tsahi Halevi, Levana Finkelstein, Sasson Gabay
Running time: 113 minutes
In Hebrew and French
Check with theaters for subtitle information.
Shemi Zarhin makes genial, crowd-pleasing movies that are a hit with the Israeli public. His latest, The Kind Words, fits the formula that viewers who remember his last three movies, The World Is Funny; Aviva, My Love; and Bonjour, Monsieur Shlomi, will be familiar with.
Although it’s in Hebrew and takes place in Israel and France, the film is as slick as a mainstream American movie. Every character is a type, and every plot turn is designed to be resolved neatly at the film’s end.
The Kind Words tells the story of three adult siblings who have to cope with a sudden crisis. The main focus is on Dorona (Rotem Zissman-Cohen), who, as the movie opens, has been trying for years to have a child via in vitro fertilization. Now she and her husband, Ricky (Tsahi Halevi), are advised to adopt and are told by an employee of an adoption agency that there will be a child for them soon. Dorona rejects the offer and pulls away from her husband. He wants her to stay and talk things over, but she moves back in with her spunky, nurturing Algerian-born mother (Levana Finkelstein, who seems like an odd casting choice for someone with this ethnic background).
Noticing that her mother seems ill, Dorona insists on getting her to the doctor and summons her two brothers, who each are very different types. One brother, played by Roy Assaf, has become haredi and is married to a loving but demanding English speaker and is raising several toddlers with her. The other brother, played by Asaf Ben-Shimon, is a successful bar owner. They are all united in hating their father (Sasson Gabay), who left their mother for a much younger woman. Now their mother’s illness and subsequent death (which happens early on) forces them back into contact with him.
The three siblings are shocked to learn that their father – who has been trying to conceive a child with his young wife – is infertile. So who is their real father? Looking over various documents, they realize that each was born about nine months after their mother visited an aunt in Paris. Still mourning their mother, they head off to Paris and then Marseilles to find their biological father.
The actors are all appealing.
Zissman Cohen is affecting as she tries to cover up her heartbreak over her infertility and her mother’s death with a toughness she doesn’t really feel. Zissman Cohen is one of Israel’s busiest leading ladies and has given especially strong performances in such movies as Dina Zvi-Riklis’s The Fifth Heaven.
Roy Assaf, who is best known for his roles as a violent believer in God’s Neighbors and a selfinvolved trafficker in the TV series Blue Natalie, does a nice comic turn as the henpecked haredi brother. Levana Finkelstein, who recently gave a moving performance as a woman struggling with dementia in The Farewell Party, is charming as the matriarch of the family.
Paris and Marseilles provide picturesque backdrops, although the most striking eye candy is Tsahi Halevi as Dorona’s husband.
The actor, who made his movie debut just two years ago in Yuval Adler’s Bethlehem, has little to do here but look good while Dorona pushes him away, and he manages very nicely, even delivering the movie’s title in a talk he has with Dorona. His sexy on-screen presence at times distracts from the predictable family-secrets plot. It becomes increasingly difficult to understand how Dorona can keep rejecting this unbelievably attractive and supportive husband.
But as the film goes on and the siblings come ever closer to unraveling the secret, it becomes clear that the sitcom-like plot is all there is; there are no surprises or shadings. In spite of the fact that the whole film revolves around discovering this secret, we never really find out what it means to Dorona. Does learning that her mother was not as simple as she had always thought make her more accepting of her own inability to conceive a child? Getting the answer to this question would distract from the business of getting the characters into cute situations in picturepostcard locations. Although there are a few funny moments, the movie won’t stay in your mind once you leave the theater.