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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Fill The Void | Hadas Yaron, Renana Raz, Yiftach Klein, Irit Sheleg, Raiza Israeli, Hilda Feldman | Review

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5sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT Judy Thorburn

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5lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT

Fill The Void

Fill The Void offers an intimate glimpse into the insulated world of Hassidic Jews, their customs, rituals and traditions that is foreign to mainstream society.  In her feature film debut as writer and director, Ram Burshtein sensitively explores the excruciating dilemma a religious young woman faces when she is torn between obligation, tradition, and her own personal feelings.

Set in the ultra Orthodox community of Tel Aviv, the story follows the life of eighteen year old Shira (Hadas Yaron) a beautiful young woman who is about to be married off to a young man of the same age, in what is essentially an arranged marriage. The wedding plans are put on hold after her beloved older sister,  Esther (Renana Raz) dies while giving birth to her son. While mourning their tragic loss, the grief stricken family are given more bad news. Esther's husband Yochay (Yiftach Klein) adored her, but in desperate need for a suitable wife that could help raise his child, he is seriously considering an offer to marry a widow living in Belgium.

Devastated to learn that her son in law and only grandchild would be moving out of the country, Rivka (Irit Sheleg) comes up with an idea to fill the void left by the Esther's death, which is to have Shira agree to marry Yochay. Suddenly Shira, who spends her days playing accordion for children in a nursery school,  is put in a position of being forced to make a difficult choice, whether to comply, or to follow her own heart. Conflicted, in a moment of solitude, she asks G-d to give her the strength to do the right thing.

Pressuring Shira to succumb to their wishes are her nagging mother and armless Aunt Hanna (Raiza Israeli) who has never married and covers her head with a married woman's hat or scarf so that “no one would ask embarrassing questions”.  On the other hand, there is Freida (Hilda Feldman), Shira's aging friend who has always been the bridesmaid but never a bride, and is fearful of becoming an old maid. She tells Shira that Esther told her if anything happened to her, she wanted Frieda to step in and marry the handsome Yochay.

Filmmaker Bushstein knows first hand about the subject matter, from her own personal life as a Hassidic  Jew and captures the tight knit, structured world where religious tradition and strong family values are the glue that holds it together. In this patriarchal society, men are in control. Everyone turns to the head Rabbi (a man, of course) for spiritual wisdom and advice as well as monetary help. Women are, nevertheless, revered and loved for their power to give birth, keep house, cook, and child raising.  That isn't to say females aren't possessed with manipulative powers, which is put to use when the need becomes apparent. Yet, a woman who has never married is depicted as someone unable to make the most basic decisions without the advice of a man.  This is exemplified in a scene where an old lady asks to see the Rabbi for help in picking out a stove.

The wonderful film features exquisite, heartfelt performances by Yaron, Sheleg and Klein. There are no characters portrayed as villains, only people struggling, in the face of tragedy, to do what they believe is right. The focus is on Orthodox Jews, but the problems they face in life, especially for repressed women, are universal.

Fill The Void marks an outstanding debut for the first time Israeli filmmaker. I applaud her for making such an absorbing, touching, and emotionally moving family drama.      

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