Fill the Void
Directed by Rama Burshtein
Published: May 8, 2013
Though she hasn’t spoken to him yet, Shira (Hadas Yaron), an 18-year-old Hasidic Orthodox Jew in Tel-Aviv, has a good feeling about her future husband. Then her older sister Esther (Renana Raz) dies in childbirth, leaving their family heartbroken and Esther’s husband, Yohai (Yiftach Klein), alone with a new son. Afraid that Yohai will marry again and move away with her grandchild, Shira’s mother (Irit Sheleg) proposes a match between Shira and the widower.
Although the plot is ostensibly a will-they-won’t-they, who-will-she-choose sort of romance, at its heart this is a film about grief. Every character carries it differently, from her mother, who becomes obsessed with keeping the family together; to Shira, who wants to live her own life rather than taking over her sister’s; to her father, who doesn’t want Shira to marry anyone so that he won’t be left with an empty house. Esther’s sudden death is the emotional center of the film, leaving the romantic plot line a little flat afterward.
Rama Burshtein, Fill the Void’s writer and director, beautifully depicts Hasidic rituals (the Purim scene involves all the men getting drunk and telling their sob stories to the patriarch for money while the women watch from the next room shaking their heads), but loses unfamiliar viewers in the intricacies of courting rituals. By the end of the film, a little too much has been implied to really understand why Shira picks the man she does. Still, Fill the Void offers a fascinating look into a rarely seen culture and has some memorable performances.
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