Film

Disobedience

A story of forbidden love

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

It would be a lovely thing if you, the reader, knew less about Disobedience than you already do. Every trailer, every advertisement, every interview in connection with this film has revealed it as a tale of lesbian love set in an intensely Orthodox Jewish community in London. And the reason for this is obvious: You can persuade a lot more people to see a forbidden love story than a movie about a religious community.

But if you do see Disobedience, and you should, try not to think about where you already know it’s going and appreciate how it builds, and how it’s about a lot more than sex. At its most intense and powerful, Disobedience is about courage and claiming one’s life, themes its Chilean director, Sebastian Lelio, explored in his previous films, Gloria and A Fantastic Woman.

The film is beautifully shot, though “beautiful” may seem an odd word to describe photography so stark. To see Disobedience and remember it later is to picture a washed-out world in a kind of blue haze. Yet the movie has an unforgiving clarity. Every line, imperfection, bump, birthmark or blemish on the face of either of its two Rachels, McAdams or Weisz, is there in close-up. Yet what comes out of this is the privileged sense of really, actually seeing people for once, and a feeling that neither actress has ever looked so good or so vital.

Disobedience is a story of coming home. Ronit (Weisz) grew up in the Orthodox community as the daughter of the revered rabbi. Now the rabbi is dead, and she is back in London for the funeral, staying at the home of Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and Esti (McAdams), old friends of Ronit who have since gotten married. Dovid, who was the protege of the old rabbi, is set to become his replacement.

In the early part of Disobedience, the film seems to be simply an arresting tale of a woman returning to a community that holds her in mild contempt. Ronit doesn’t flaunt her modernity, but she doesn’t hide it, and that she’s the rabbi’s daughter makes her independence seem an especially pointed rejection. All the scenes of her interacting with the community elders—whether it’s a holiday dinner or a reading of the will—have a slight edge of tension.

Amid all this well-observed detail, it’s easy—or would be easy, if you didn’t already know—to ignore that something is going on with Esti, just some extra atmosphere happening in McAdams’ performance. Esti seems to have a problem with Ronit, or maybe the problem she has is with her husband. During the marital love scene—the weekly, scheduled sex—she looks as though she’d rather be doing a crossword puzzle.

This is in wild contrast to the love scene later in the film, the one that people will be staggering out of the theater talking about, the one that must not be seen by anyone with high blood pressure or prone to excessive perspiration. The scene is not in any way graphic, but it’s so much an expression of the characters’ longing—a longing that has been building throughout the film, or in the case of Esti, for many years—that it’s overwhelming. It’s not an interlude, or a visual aid, but the center of the entire movie.

Weisz is the locus of Disobedience and becomes all the more fascinating as we come to see Ronit through the eyes of McAdams’ performance. It’s rare in film to see such a symbiosis between actresses—rare, because there are so few opportunities. As Esti, McAdams benefits from her previous association with hard-driving roles. It gives us a sense of what is being bottled up and how it can’t stay under wraps for long.

The women are remarkable, unforgettable. But don’t overlook Nivola, an enigmatic figure as the rabbi and husband. At one point, he formally addresses his community, and Lelio films him in such extreme close-up that he keeps going in and out of focus. It’s the nature of the role expressed visually, a man we do not know but will know by the end of the film.

More Film...
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
The story of Mister Rogers

I’m tempted to say that the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is exactly what we need in these scabrous times, but that makes it sound too self-important. And if there is one thing that Fred Rogers, the host and creator of the beloved educational children’s show Mister Rogers’…

more »
The Rider
Home on the range

Subtle, elemental and powerfully beautiful, writer-director Chloe Zhao’s The Rider is the Western of the new century, and the most enveloping film experience I’ve had this year.

Even a hack director could make something of the southwestern South Dakota landscapes near Wounded Knee,…

more »
Oberfelder’s Cannabis Farm
The good, the bad and the happy

Much like most people who voted to make Washington one of the first states to legalize marijuana, I assume that most of those involved in the cultivation and sale of legal weed are doing just fine, if not better than that. Judging by the proliferation of pot shops, the many strains of…

more »
Events
Today
Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bellingham Dance Company's Hunchback

7:00pm|Majestic

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Open Air Summer Rep

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Chuckanut Writers Conference

9:00am|Whatcom Community College

Lummi Stommish Water Festival

10:00am|Lummi Nation

Whatcom Cultural Arts Festival

5:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Keys for Kids

5:30pm|Stepping Stones Garden

Off Broadway

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Musicals and Brawls

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Plant Hike

8:00am|Hannegan Pass Trail

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

Padden Triathlon

8:30am|Lake Padden Park

March Point Run

9:00am|Andeavor Refinery

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverwalk Park

Twin Sisters Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner, North Fork Library

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am| Depot Market Square

Welcome to Chickenlandia

10:00am|Blaine Library

Lynden Farmers Market

10:00am|Centennial Park

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am|Islander Grocery Store

How to Renovate an Older Urban Garden

10:00am|Roeder Home

Imagine This! Home & Landscape Tour

10:00am|Whatcom County

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Inside the green building scene

10:00am

Apps & Snaps for iPhone Gardeners

11:00am|Christianson's Nursery

A Novel Affair with Nancy Pearl

11:30am|Maple Hall

Ice Cream Class for Adults

12:00pm|Lynden Library

Concrete Saturday Market

1:00pm|Concrete Community Center

Lynden Cemetery Tour

1:00pm|Lynden Cemetery

Tuesdays with Morrie

2:00pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Seafood Boil

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Seafood Boil

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Saturday Seafood Boil

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Chuckanut Writers Conference Open Mics

7:00pm|Village Books Reading Gallery, Evolve Chocolate and Cafe, Lovitt Restaurant, and Magdalena's Creperie

Musical Reunion

7:00pm|YWCA Ballroom

Dudestock

7:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

An Evening with Ira Glass

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

2018 Cascadia Kids
Tomorrow
Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bellingham Dance Company's Hunchback

7:00pm|Majestic

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Lummi Stommish Water Festival

10:00am|Lummi Nation

Off Broadway

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Brunch on the Bay

10:00am|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Skagit Symphony Garden Tour

10:00am|Mount Vernon

Junk in Your Trunk

10:00am|North Fork Library

Edison Farmers Market

10:00am|Edison Granary

La Conner Live

1:00pm|Gilkey Square

Women on the Water

1:00pm|Community Boating Center

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Trivia Time

3:30pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Way North Comedy Triple Header

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Take Me to Church

8:00pm|Rumors Cabaret

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books
Monday
Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Rainbow Reads

12:00pm|Lynden Library, Ferndale Library

Plant Diagnostic Clinics

5:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Hammocking Basics

6:00pm|REI

Hammocking Basics

6:00pm|REI

Monday Night Pizza

6:00pm|Ciao Thyme Commons

Cuban Salsa

6:00pm|Bell Tower Studios

Orca Month Kayak Tour

6:00pm|Zuanich Park

Books on Tap Two

6:30pm|Tino's Pizza & Pasta Co.

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books

Guffawingham

9:00pm| Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Trove Web 2018 Cascadia Kids Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1