The Other Son

PhotobucketJoseph is an 18-year-old who lives a comfortable life in a suburb of Tel Aviv with his parents. Given the t-shirts he wears, he‘s a big fan of 60s American rock & roll. He wishes to be a folk musician like Bob Dylan.  As a matter of fact, he kind of resembles the folk singer.  Yacine is a Palestinian boy, also 18 years old.  He has recently arrived home from Paris where he has been studying. Yacine and his Arab family live within the confines of the occupied West Bank. After Joseph’s routine blood test for military service yields inconsistent results, his doctor mother makes some inquires. The shocking surprise is that in the chaos of an emergency evacuation at their hospital back during the Gulf War, these two children were accidentally switched at birth. The Other Son won the Grand Prix at the Tokyo International Film Festival, their highest honor.

The success of a character-based drama rests on the strength of its performances. Jules Sitruk as Joseph from Israel, and Mehdi Dehbi as Yacine the Palestinian, are both likable and appealing. Their relationship never feels artificial. It develops naturally. But as good as they are, the real highlights are Emmanuelle Devos and Areen Omari as their respective mothers. Just study their faces when they learn of the mix-up at the hospital. They convey an emotional depth naturally from their expressions. They’re really good. In fact the whole cast is believable with the lone exception of Yacine’s older brother, Bilal. His misplaced anger upon learning they are no longer related by blood is forced and unconvincing.

Obviously the predicament that one’s child is not your own would be traumatic news in and of itself. But placing the babies on either side of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and you have a most interesting twist to further complicate matters. French director Lorraine Levy sidesteps a deep discussion of the heated beliefs that underlie the political situation there. Instead the setting allows her to address various topics from a very intimate, personal perspective. In this way, the script suggests political disagreements between countries are more the result of governments fighting and less a cause célèbre of the actual citizens. This is a story about people. It asserts the idea that one’s entire identity can be arbitrarily defined simply by geography. How that personality can change over time is also explored. If there is a failing, it’s that the saga never fully resonates with the understanding needed to completely empathize with their plight. Despite the best of intentions, the setup feels slightly contrived. Although I was invested in their lives, I didn’t experience the clarifying breakthrough that I felt the narrative required. Yet the performances still ring true. The sincerity of the actors elevate the plot past a mere concept created by a writer into a fascinating picture worth watching.

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4 Responses to “The Other Son”

  1. I give this 4 stars. I felt every single emotion of the parents and imagined how torn they must have been. They really had two sons. I also felt Bilal was so outrageous because deep inside he was hurting so bad. I got that. I agree all the performances were very good.

  2. That premise is incredible. I definitely will check this one out.

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