Doctrine, family ties, and forbidden desire clash in Disobedience, an excellent, sombre, sober drama with exceptional performances by Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams.
Rachel Weisz’s absolute class stands unquestioned, but she sometimes (The Mercy, Oz the Great and Powerful) takes missteps. That is not the case in Disobedience, a film that she spent ten years trying to make. The actress from The Lobster, The Deep Blue Sea, and The Mummy plays a photographer who made it big in New York and who returns to north London for her father’s funeral. This causes quite a stir because Ronit broke ties with the Orthodox Jewish community that her father led as a rabbi.
Her complex mourning for her rejected/beloved father is overshadowed by a reunion with the love of her youth Esti. But Esti, in a great performance by Rachel McAdams from True Detective and The Notebook, is married to the man who is supposed to succeed the deceased rabbi. Should they succumb to their resurgent desires? Is disobedience a right in a repressive, patriarchal environment that thinks it can interfere with your sexual preferences and restrict your individual freedoms? There are no simplistic answers. Breaking away from your community, your past, and part of your identity is anything but romantic.
Like a good book
Disobedience is not absolutely overwhelming, but it does stay with you in the same way that a good book does. In his first film in English, Chilean director Sebastián Lelio takes his time to unpack the story, forbids any sensationalism, and dares to make the atmosphere of repressed feelings and tastelessness even more uncomfortable with an intentionally distant style and score. Just like in Gloria and the Oscar-winning Una mujer fantástica, his greatest talent lies in directing the actors. Both Rachels give their characters a depth and complexity that you rarely see at the cinema.