CAPSULE: DEAR MR. WALDMAN portrays a father-son relationship in which both sides are flawed and vulnerable. Hilik Waldman was born in the early 1950s to two parents who suffered greatly in the Holocaust. Ten years later Hilik wants to make his father Moishe happy, but Moishe is obsessed with a son he lost and proving to himself that the new aide to President Kennedy in the United States is actually his lost son. This comedy-drama gives us a tender father-son relationship with a believable story. First-time director Hanan Peled also writes a film with some rough edges, but also some promise. Under the comedy this is a sad and tender story. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
There are many films about the tortured lives of the people who were caught up in the Holocaust. It is much less common to see a film about the echoes that those terrible years had on the next generation born in the years shortly after those events. DEAR MR. WALDMAN shows us the family of two Holocaust survivors living in Israel. It is the story of how one son in the family tries to bring some healing and of the effects of his efforts. The message may be that love does not conquer all, but it does help in the healing.
Hilik Waldman (played by Ido Port) is a troublesome ten-year-old growing up in Tel Aviv in the early Sixties. He is obsessed with the movies, especially SPARTACUS. In many ways he is reminiscent of the rambunctious, media-loving main character of Woody Allen's RADIO DAYS. Hilik also loves his parents who survived the Holocaust. Moishe (played by Rami Heuberger) was scarred by the loss of his first wife and his then only son. It is really Rivka (Jenya Dodina) who has to keep the family together. Moishe is obsessed with the idea that his first son, who would be Hilik's half brother, somehow survived the camps and is alive. When he sees a news item that the American President Kennedy has a new aide, about the right age and also named Waldman, he is convinced that somehow this is his first son who by some chance survived and escaped to the United States. Moishe wants to somehow get to the United States and to prove that this man whose picture he sees in the newspaper is actually his missing son. Hilik decides that he needs to hold onto his father and control the situation. Inspired by the example on the screen of Spartacus, Hilik feels he has the power to control events in his own family.
While we see the story through the eyes of Hilik, he and his father are both shown to be flawed characters. Nothing in this story is idealized. Love does not conquer all, but the love of the family helps to smooth the way. In the end there are no great victories, but the viewer is left with the feeling that old wounds do heal with time. If people do not get what they dream of, maybe at least life gets a little better with time. Perhaps there is a message of acceptance in this natural healing overcoming even such unnatural wounds as the Holocaust causes.
This film is all about the generation that suffered the Holocaust and their children who grew up while the memories hung over their parent. The problems created during that chapter of history continue on. DEAR MR. WALDMAN is not really about the horrors of the 1930s and 1940s. Instead it is about a loving family and the stress that the memories place on relationships. It is a very human story. While the story is fiction, it is based on Peled's own family and his father's own quest to find a missing son. Still the relations we see could be in any family under any kind of stress.
This is a bittersweet and believable story. It holds humor, sentiment, horror and warmth. I rate DEAR MR. WALDMAN a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0823493/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2008 Mark R. Leeper