Late Marriage (חתונה מאוחרת) Made in: Israel, France Language: Hebrew, Georgian Director: Dover Koshashvili Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Ronit Elkabetz, Moni Moshonov, Lili Koshashvili, Sapir Kugman Year: 2001
Synopsis: 31year-old bachelor Zaza (Lior Ashkenazi) is finishing up his PhD at the University of Tel Aviv. His parents, Yasha (Moni Moshonov) and Lili (Lili Koshashvili), are Georgian immigrants who uphold very strict Jewish traditions.
They are on an exhaustive search to find a young bride for their son, and have visited dozens of other families (all of whom abide by the same customs). Despite the constant pressure from his strict father and overbearing mother, Zaza turns down all his potential mates.
The reason for that is because he's having a passionate affair with Judith (Ronit Elkabetz), his fiery, sensuous lover. The big problem is that Judith is 34, divorced, and is the mother of a 6 year-old girl named Madona (Sapir Kugman).
This, of course, doesn't sit well with Zaza's parents, as the situation violates every social more that they've been raised with. After they, along with other family members, take drastic measures to break up the relationship, all sides come to painful self-realizations as the struggle between tradition and change reaches critical mass.
Zaza sees the heartbreak and shame he is bringing to his family. But his elders confront the reality that their strict adherence to tradition has left them empty, and trapped in miserable marriages. Will Zaza stand up for the woman he loves, or will he sacrifice his own happiness in the name of saving face?
The Good: Late Marriage is one of those foreign films that just about anyone can understand while giving us a close-up, authentic-looking view of a different culture. Much of it is marked with subtlety and humor, but there's plenty of emotional intensity as well.
Lior Ashkenazi and Ronit Elkabetz do a great job, and the rest of the supporting cast is very strong as well.
The interaction between Zaza and Judith is very realistic, and in a single scene, director Dover Koshashvili is able to show us the full spectrum of their relationship. It can be said that the sex scene is explicit, but it's obvious that Koshasvili's main purpose is not to titillate.
The intimacy he captures makes the two lovers out to be very human, and you might forget that you're watching a couple of actors. It's a scene that many will find beautiful, and I suspect many will find it uncomfortable as well. I have a feeling that it was Koshasvili's goal to have those two conflicting reactions jump out of the screen and involve the viewer.
The main theme of family tradition vs. personal happiness is always at the forefront, but never overstated. While the conflict is only seen between Zaza and his elders, it's actually a larger, subtle (but effective) commentary on life in Israel.
As the country modernizes, there's an ever-increasing conflict between the traditional, Eastern "shame-culture" values and the Western "individual happiness" philosophy. The problems and merits of both sides are explored, and Late Marriage opts for realism in favor of a storybook ending.
The Bad: With the film being so focused, it's hard to tell exactly where Late Marriage takes place. It's not blatantly obvious that the setting is Tel Aviv (especially if you've never been there), but giving the viewer a little hint wouldn't have subtracted from the overall effect.
Who would like this movie: Late Marriage is for you if you really appreciate foreign films that are really different from Hollywood movies, but don't want to be bored by them (a perfectly reasonable position).
This is a film that's compelling, moving, and even funny. And it's sure to spark strong gut reactions depending on what culture you were raised in. Although it might be more meaningful if you're familiar with Jewish traditions and life in modern Israel, the themes are universal for the most part.
The ending is disturbing and a little hard to understand, so Late Marriage is a good movie to discuss with friends who share the same views on foreign films as yourself.