Broken Wings

on March 12, 2004 by Chris Wiegand
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Anyone who's lost a loved one or struggled to muddle their way through adolescence will find comfort, catharsis and ultimately hope in this remarkable debut from Israeli writer-director Nir Bergman. Realistically dealing with a plethora of familial issues, "Broken Wings" is a wise and sensitive piece of filmmaking that heralds the arrival of a major new talent. A domestic hit of impressive proportions, the picture was warmly received at the 2003 Berlinale, where it was handed the Panorama Audience Prize.

Set in Haifa, Bergman's tale portrays a shattered family reeling from tragedy. When her husband dies, middle-aged nurse Daphne Ulman must work overtime in order to provide for her four children. As a new school term begins, her teenage daughter, Maya, is burdened with extra responsibilities and must look after her timid sister and beleaguered younger brother. The apathetic Yair, Maya's closest sibling in terms of age, offers little help. He's busy questioning the purpose of his existence as a "speck of dust" in this universe.

From these grim beginnings, the director fashions a heart-rending character study hinging on a horrific accident that threatens to tear the Ulman family apart for good. Detailing the effects of guilt, resentment and blame, Bergman treats these characters with the kind of even hand that Lukas Moodysson displayed in "Show Me Love." Like Moodysson, he never goes for easy sentiment and is perceptive when pinpointing the specific concerns of different age groups.

In the role of the eldest daughter, Maya Maron is entirely--almost unbearably--convincing, while Orly Zilbershatz-Banai, who also starred in the acclaimed TV series "Reaching For Heaven" (co-written by Bergman), gives a hugely moving performance as her mother. On a second viewing, the turns of the other siblings are given the space to shine and the subtleties of Bergman's script come to the fore. There's a fine, cyclical structure to this piece and haunting music, too, from Avi Belleli. Starring Orly Zilbershatz-Banai, Maya Maron, Nitai Gvirtz and Vladimir Freedman. Directed and written by Nir Bergman. Produced by Assaf Amir. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Drama. Hebrew-language; subtitled. Rated R for some language, brief nudity and drug use. Running time: 87 min

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