Lost Islands – Movie Review

A film of mixed feelings, “Lost Islands” seeks to show contented, vibrant family life leading to oedipal father-son conflict.  Too much to hope for, this commendable goal fails to generate a strong conclusion

Reshef Levi’s family drama “Lost Islands” was the kick-up film for the 23rd Israel Film Festival in the New York City run.  The film played to a packed Ziegfeld Theatre in the heart of the Broadway theatre district as patrons joined to celebrate the select Israeli films chosen for the IFF.

A family drama, this film centers on the relationship of two brothers and their father, growing up in Israel.  The brothers are twins, two of five male siblings in the more or less normal family.  Therein lies the rub, the family is simply too normal.  The father and the mother dote on the children.  The father is too fond of his old car which he seems to keep running with a prayer and bailing wire and their mother dotes on everyone.

Michael Moshonov plays Erez, one of the twins.  The narrator tells us that Erez was born weak, the weaker of the two twins.  This foreshadows the eventual burden of guilt laid on the other twin, Ofer, played by Oshri Cohen.  While Erez spends his developing years lifting weights and dreaming of being an elite commando, Ofer dreams of simply being a normal person and finding himself.  Although he rejects Erez’ bravado, he harbors the deep insecurity of knowing that his weaker brother is now physically stronger than himself.

Compounding this is the subtly directed love of their mother.  Through the film it becomes apparent that she feels closer to Erez.  Although hiding this is to her credit, it deepens the rift between the two brothers.  The rift is deepened when both brothers fall in love with the same girl.  But this is soon left in the background when Ofer accidentally makes a possible contribution to a fateful car accident involving his father.

When their father’s car accident leaves the head of the family paralyzed from the waist down Ofer and Erez suddenly switch roles.  Erez stays home to care for the head of the family and the comically unlikely Ofer joins the military to defend Israel.

Writer/director Reshef Levy executes a sweet film in which both brothers and the father eventually make sacrifices to each other in the name of the family.  The family unit remains supreme above even the nation and all slights, real and imaginary, are forgiven.

Having said this, the film lacks the crisp writing and direction required to make a family drama stand out.  In the beginning the one-liners are quite funny and the picture moves along thanks to fluid movement and nicely paced photography.  As the film progresses the story becomes caught up in itself and has to struggle to keep up the momentum under the weight of ambiguous plot tools and the static level of emotion of the actors.

The father’s infidelity that leads to the car accident is not strongly portrayed as a blow to the family.  In fact, it goes nowhere.  The car accident itself that grows out of the act of infidelity is not firmly connected to anger of Ofer.  The mother’s inability to understand the depth of Ofer’s loyalty to her and the burden this has placed on him is a potentially weighty lesson that settles on the audience rather than taking it by storm.

It is uncertain if these factors are the direct intention of the film maker emphasizing the lack of simple cause and effect in the complex stew of family emotions.  If it is, that is well and good as life is never as clear as what we read in books and see in films.  But the piper will be paid for the lack of strength of the conclusion as the final lines of the film waft over the viewer rather than landing with hard emotional impact.

The overall look and feel of the film owes a lot to American family cinema and this is something that weakens to final lesson of the movie.  The setting is too much “My Three Sons” and not enough “Citizen Kane” to power the ending.  Although well put together, such films need a tighter focus with actor’s better equipped to show deeper scars and traumas leading to the conclusion.

Release: Israel Film Festival
MPAA: Unrated
Running Time: 103 minutes
Country: Israel
Language: Hebrew
Color: Color