CAPSULE: Three intertwined stories of three women in Tel Aviv make for an effective, short, and economical piece of filmmaking. We get a mix of comedy, tragedy, and some mysticism. The stories are strange and offbeat and just matter-of-factly seem to drift into magical realism. Respected short-story writer Etgar Karat co-directs with scriptwriter Shira Geffen. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
Three dramas about three women take place in Tel Aviv in this film. Each story lightly touches the other two, but wends its own way. Batya (played by Sarah Adler) is a waitress at a somewhat sleazy catered banquet hall. We see her in the days after losing her boy friend and her job is not going well. The managers are nasty, the food preparation not very clean. Batya herself is tightly bound to her own unpleasant past. But then, as if to take her out of herself, a young girl in a swim ring comes out of the sea. The little girl has no parents around and seems to have come out of nowhere. She also has a strange unworldly air about her. Batya wants to help the mysterious little girl find her family, but that will be harder than she thinks. Keren (Noa Knoller) had a wedding reception was at the same bad banquet hall where Batya worked. For her life is beautiful and she is ready for her honeymoon. Then she finds herself locked in a restroom stall and has to climb out, breaking her leg in the process. This destroys her honeymoon plans. Her new husband wants to find her a nice hotel in Tel Aviv, but one room after another is just not very good. To make matters worse, the hotel they choose does have a nice suite, but there is a woman staying in it and Keren's new husband seems to take an interest in the woman that Keren finds uncomfortable. In the third strand, the joyless Joy (Ma-Nenenita De Latorre) is in Israel trying to find work, but her heart is back at home in the Philippines with her son. She is looking for a job caring for babies where her lack of Hebrew language will not matter, but the employment office keeps giving her elderly and unpleasant women to care for. Making matters worse she speaks some English and her own language from home, but none of the women speak either language.
Each of these women is having an unpleasant time. They are not in control of their lives but are buffeted by the currents of chance like ocean currents buffet jellyfish. Their lives will each somehow connect with the magical renewing power of the sea. Co-director Etgar Keret has an international reputation as a short story writer. His stories are bizarre and frequently enigmatic and that is the style of this film. There are threads that seem to wind through the film, but do not add up to much. There is a charity drive going on and seems to touch all three stories, but that thread never seems to go anywhere.
The production values of JELLYFISH can best be described as sufficient. The photography is not highly polished. It is not a work of art. But it gets the job done. JELLYFISH may not be an easy film to find. It is not the kind of film that one generally sees even the art house circuit. Currently it is playing at film festivals where it is picking up prizes. It will have an opening in New York City starting April 4.
This is a calm, gentle, yet pointed little film with strong characters. The viewer is not always sure he understands what is being said, but the overall effect is pleasant. I rate JELLYFISH a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0807721/
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2008 Mark R. Leeper