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The Women’s Balcony movie review: men, cross women at your peril

The Women's Balcony green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

A slyly wise, hugely entertaining portrait of an Orthodox Jewish community that loses its joy when a newcomer sows discord. You don’t have to be religious to love it.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for stories about women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Israeli box-office hit The Women’s Balcony opens with one of the most delightful depictions of a joyful community I’ve ever seentweet onscreen: neighbors wending their way through narrow Jerusalem streets, carrying homemade food to a potluck celebration, all laughing and happy in their party clothes. They are on their way to a bar mitzvah, it turns out, a gathering primarily defined, it seems, by the gentle humor of people ribbing their friends and family, and of the everyday greasing of the wheels that food and ritual provide. The dramedy that springs from there is all about what happens when a newcomer sows discord: their charismatic new rabbi (Avraham Aviv Alush, who recently appeared in The Shack as Jesus) is a lot more conservative than even these Orthodox Jews, and his plans for their synagogue, both the building and the congregation, cause a rift between the men and the women. (The rabbi is a fantastic example of how putting women on a pedestal is an insult, not a compliment.) The ladies in particular do not appreciate the tiny box the rabbi would like to constrain them to — he thinks that even the balcony the women segregate themselves onto, from which to look down on the services that only men may participate in, is too liberal a presence for women in the synagogue! — and so Ora (Sharon Elimelech) leads them in affable revolt. This first feature from TV director Emil Ben-Shimon and screenwriter Shlomit Nehama is a slyly wise and beautifully sketched portrait of a community under strain, and how its strong, close ties allow it to right itself again, one you do not have to be Jewish or even religious to take great pleasure in.tweet

Click here for my ranking of this and 2017’s other releases.

green light 4 stars

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The Women’s Balcony (Ismach Hatani) (2017) | directed by Emil Ben-Shimon
US/Can release: May 26 2017

MPAA: not rated

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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