Through the Wall
Through the Wall, Rama Burshtein’s sophomore directorial effort, is an Israeli romcom, shot in Hebrew and centred on an ultra-orthodox Jewish woman’s search for love through her unwavering faith in God. Although this is certainly a narrow cinematic niche (the many examples of Hasidic tradition and culture may be confusing to many), there is just enough warmly entertaining common ground available here to engage UK audiences.
The story centres around Michal (played convincingly by newcomer Noa Koler), a 30-something Hasidic Jew who is increasingly frustrated by the aspects of life that she feels excluded from without a husband. Companionship, love, children and the respect of a community that pities a single woman on the far side of her 20s are all off the table for Michal until she finds a spouse. These feelings bubble over in the film’s opening scene in a conversation with Hulda (Odelia Moreh-Matalon), a homeopathic practitioner who uses fish innards and bread dough to accent her consultations. Fish guts aside, Koler’s presence is immediately felt in these opening moments, inhabiting the frustrated and opining character of Michal with deft familiarity.
From this initial confession and a subsequent aborted engagement, that together serve as the premise for the meat of Through the Wall, Michal decides enough is enough. Booking a wedding hall for the eighth day of Hannukah, she places her faith in God to send her a husband in the intervening 12 days. As romcom setups go there have been more far-fetched ones, but the earnest religious context here may be off-putting to some.
From here on out however, there are many warm interactions that will endear audiences to Koler’s energy and conviction: comical dates with variously unsuitable bachelors, soul-baring exchanges with her sisters and, eventually, the man of her dreams who was under her nose all along. All fairly by-the-numbers romcom, but credit is due to Burshtein’s writing in its ability to keep audiences plugging for the protagonist as she stumbles through an exploration of her relationship with both love and her faith.
Although Through the Wall doesn’t tread any new ground, Michal’s character is genuine and engaging. Koler’s portrayal of her conviction and tenacity are enough to, at least partially, offset the unfamiliarity that many will experience when faced with a movie whose core tenet is an understanding of Hasidic Judaism.
Through the Wall is released in selected cinemas on 16th December 2016.
Watch the trailer for Through The Wall here: