After several years of reviewing Israeli films there is nothing second rate about them. Sure I have seen a few clunkers but such are very rare! No more than in the North American film industry.
If one pays attention to the introduction of the film on the TJFF website one might be left with the impression the film is going to be about teenage parent struggles and for the first thirty minutes that was where I thought it was heading. I was saying to myself I have seen this so many times before but after the first 30 minutes the film took a cruel and nasty turn as the film explores the inevitable and what it can do to shape realtionships.
Asia (Alena Vis) is a Russian Jew who emigrated to Israel bringing her daughter Vika (Shira Hass). Asia, a single mother, works in a hospital in Jerusalem as a nurse. She likes a good drink, dancing and is having an affair with doctor at the hospital. But she has a strained and distant relationship with Vika, at least before the inevitable is known. Vika is no different than many a Canadian teen sneaking a drink or smoking dope and that is enough to aggravate many a parent concerned about the well being of their child.
Well matters change when teenager Vika is diagnosed with a “neurological disease” but watching her deterioration I would surmise it is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) a nasty disease that kills usually within months. I had a friend who died of ALS and he beat all odds by surviving for over a decade. I remember going out for lunch regularly with him until the last time he had difficulty eating and was confined to a wheelchair. Eventually in the last stage of the diseases he suffocated to death. “Asia” brought back those memories so the film had a special meaning for me.
Given the fatal nature of the disease the mother daughter relationship warms up and the mutual love between the two finally surfaces in a tender and heartbreaking way.
The film is really not one of those teen angst films but rather the courage and love needed by both the victim of the inevitable but of its witnesses, particularly family members.
You may be a bit taken aback by the ending and you might call it a very brave act by mother and daughter.
A stellar performance by Vis and Hass. Hass won best actress at the 30th Israeli Academy Awards and Vis best supporting actress while the film was voted the best film.
This 2020 85-minute film is in both Russian and Hebrew with English subtitles and is directed by Ruthy Pribar.
It is showing at TJFF from June 3-13.
You can see the trailer here https://tjff.com/films/asia/
You can purchase tickets at the TJFF website (tjff.com) but note the film is geoblocked to Ontario.