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05/26/2013 08:49 am ET Updated Jul 26, 2013

Popcorn Preview: Fill the Void

Film: Fill the Void (Lemale et ha'halal) (2012)
Cast includes: Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein (Policeman), Irit Sheleg (Night Terrors), Chayim Sharir (Restoration), Renana Raz (Munich)
Writer/Director: Rama Burshtein (first feature film)
Genre: Drama | Romance (90 minutes) Hebrew with subtitles

Mom and 18-year-old daughter, Shira, are practically giddy. They've been promised a sighting of Shira's possible suitor. But here in the Tel Aviv grocery story, it's hard to tell which one he is. Rivka calls the matchmaker on her cell phone and is directed to look in the dairy aisle. "There. He looks like his father." And indeed he does. He never looks up, but it's not too soon to ask, "What do you say?" When Shira later meets her sister, Esther, and her brother-in-law, Yochay, on the street, she's "So excited... I feel like he's the one," she whispers to Esther. Esther is not only beautiful... she practical, too. "We'll prepare a list of topics to talk about... for when the conversation gets quiet." Even though Esther is hugely pregnant and having pains already, Purim festivities go on as usual. There's a line of people asking their father for money, there's festive music and one of Shira's friends announces, "I'm a bride." She met him yesterday. Shira would like to share her good news but it's not official yet. In this Hasidic home, men are in one area... women in another... as usual. So it's quite unexpected when Yochay calls Esther out to say, "Esther, I don't deserve you. You're everything to me."

Before the evening is over, however, things go terribly wrong. An ambulance is called, but it's too late to save Esther. "May the Lord console you within Zion and Jerusalem. Amen." No matter how many people offer condolences, Yochay's heart is broken. At least Rivka has Mordichay, her new little grandson, to occupy her mind for now. But when she hears the rumor that Yochay might be getting marriage to a woman in Belgium... can it be true? It's only been two weeks. Looking at Yochay, Shira and Mordichay outside in the garden, Rivka gets an idea. She makes a phone call. Then Yochay gets a phone call, and Rivka watches with bated breath. "The answer is No," says Yochay Things don't appear to be going as Rivka had hoped, so she's got no choice but to be blunt. "What about Shira? There's no one better for Mordichay." "She's a baby," answers Yochay.

As the name of the film suggest, there's a void to be filled... and it seems fairly obvious that matching up Yochay and Shira would be the perfect solution... for everyone, except Yochay and Shira. Although we believe we know where the story is going, getting there is full of twists and turns... due in part to the customs of this ultra-Orthodox community. First-time feature filmmaker, Renana Raz, gives us an incredible non-judgmental view inside a community that's totally foreign to most of us. While matchmaking in this community may seem like a negotiation rather than a romance, that's not entirely the case. Yet there is rarely an opportunity for the couple to share their views informally, without going through others. Add to that, the fact that Shira is young and has immature views about family, duty and relationships. It's a totally riveting story... an excellent script, wonderfully acted and beautifully rendered in every detail. Although part of the story feels like a classic romance, none of the obvious solutions are going to work... we have no choice but to blindly go where the story takes us. At a low point, Yochay laments, "If only I could read the signs." It's not easy.

4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
In a tightknit Hasidic community, an 18-year-old is pressured to marry the husband of her late sister

Popcorn Profile
Rated: PG
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Art house
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment & Thought provoking

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