CAPSULE: In this Israeli comedy-drama the title character works for a Jerusalem bakery from which an immigrant worker disappeared. The bakery did not know the woman had been gone. When she is identified as being the victim of a terrorist attack two weeks earlier, the company's indifference to her becomes a major public relations fiasco. The HR Director, whose own family life is falling apart, gets the assignment of taking the body back to her remote home in Romania. This begins a whimsical odyssey in which the HR Director will himself find the resources to be a little more human. Eran Riklis directs a screenplay by Noah Stollman based on a novel by Abraham B. Jehoshua. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
With most comedy-dramas the approach is to draw the viewer in with the comedy and then once he is hooked tell him a serious story. THE HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGER works nearly the opposite way. Most of the levity is the second half of the film. Until that point and around that point it is telling a fairly serious story. But the film takes time out to take a sort of bemused and amusing look at the Romanian hinterlands. There, in some ways, this film approaches the tone of EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED. There is not so much illuminated here, but the film does build to an unexpected and poignant irony.
To start with only one character is given a name. Yulia had worked for a Jerusalem bakery for years and yet nobody seems to really know who she was. When she is identified as the victim of a two- weeks-previous suicide bombing a reporter asks how could she have been dead two weeks without her supervision knowing it, the issue becomes a serious black eye to the company. The Human Resources Manager is made a scapegoat. He agrees that he will take Yulia's body back to her home in a remote part of Romania and will represent the company attending the funeral. As an unwelcome travelling companion comes the reporter who publicized the situation. Along the way they acquire another companion, Yulia's disaffected son. The manager will remain a resources manager, but along the way he will become a little more human.
In fact, the biggest life-changes seem to be in Yulia's son. Unfortunately, we learn some but too little of his emotional state. He begins as a bit of a cliché, blocking out the world with loud rock on his ever-present earphones. He will transform, but we are never really sure what wins him over. Some how we measure the changes in the manager by how he is accepted by the boy. The manager is in a difficult position. The more he helps Yulia's family, the less likely he will be back to Jerusalem to see his daughter's ballet recital. Either Yulia or his daughter will not get his attention. He is in a position where one or the other will lose.
Knowing each living character only by their title or position was probably intended to say something about the dehumanization of our culture. That really does not work. More dehumanization does not make the situation any better. This film seems like it is trying to say something significant, however exactly what does not really come across. As a portrait of a very diverse set of people coming together in a single story, the film is amusing. But no crucial insights come out of the tale. In the end, in spite of learning more about Yulia, she is still an enigma. She is a different woman than we had expected, but we are still not sure we know who she was. I rate THE HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1311075/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_human_resources_manager/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper