TL;DR – It is like this film bottled charm because it was gloriously charming from start to finish.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
Tradition v change. It is one of the great struggles of the world and it is something that many of us have had to live through, consequences and all. There are a lot of films that explore this divide, do I follow the traditions of my family, or do I find my own path. Well, today we explore a film that dives right into this debate with gusto.
So to set the scene, Mordechai Wolkenbruch (Joel Basman) who everyone calls Motti is an orthodox Jew livening in Switzerland. He works in his Dad’s (Udo Samel) insurance company, helps out in his Mum’s (Inge Maux) op-shop, and studies economics at university. He is looking for the right person but his mum keeps setting him up on shidduchs (pre-arranged meetings to facilitate marriage). The only problem is that he might have fallen for a shiksa, a non-Jewish woman called Laura (Noémie Schmidt) at university. Now I am going to preface this review with a little proviso that I am not Jewish, so I am not the best guide to know if this is a true depiction of these crashing worlds. So I do apologise if I have missed anything if it gets it wrong.
the most part, I found myself really enjoying my time here and that comes down
a lot to the character of Motti and the actor Joel Basman. A lot of this film
sort of falls into the awkward genre of comedy. That moment where you laugh out
of embarrassment for what the other person is going through. It is a style of
comedy that I tend not to like, however, it really works here. Part of this is
achieved through some clever 4th-wall breaks that ender you to Motti
and help explain some of the cultural practices. But also it is achieved by a
heaping of real charm which is at the heart of Joel Basman’s performance.
This is a film that is all about the relationships that we have in like both the romantic, the platonic, and the familiar. For Motti, the two big relationships that he has in his life are with his parents and with Laura. His dynamic with his parents falls into that more stereotypical depiction with an overbearing mother and a more relaxed if unhelpful father. I actually found the relationship with his father to be the more interesting one as it is a bit more nuanced in the film.
is also a film that can go from quite farcical to serious and then back again
with ease as it works through some really complex emotions. There were some
moments here where I laughed harder than I have at a movie in a very long time.
The highlight being a kosher knife gag and poorly timed hang up moment.
However, while there are moments of pure hilarity, there are also moments of
deep reflection and pain. Those moments when two unmovable positions collide
together. It is telling of a good film when they can chart those moments as
well as they have here.
The story is one that I think you will kind of expect what the narrative arc will be right from the start but you won’t get it completely right. It went in some really unexpecting way as it progressed to its endpoint. However, while I did not expect a lot of the trajectory along the way, looking back it all fit because it was charting the fracture points in Motti’s life. Some of those fracture points are moments of joy and some of them are moments of pain. There are a lot of recurring moments throughout the film and one of them that I really liked was his conversations with Frau Silberzweig (Sunnyi Melles) an elderly lady who is dying of cancer. It is here where we get to see his life and what is truly important to him.
let’s talk about the ending and to do that we have to enable [SPOILERS] for the rest of the review. On
the surface the film ends without any real resolution to Motti’s life, does he
reconcile with his parents, does he answer Laura’s phone call? But I think that
is fine because the film ends with him not yet made those decisions but for the
first time being in the mental position to actually make mature decisions about
his future. It is that moment of growth that he has been looking for throughout
the film personified.
In the end, do we recommend The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch? Yes, yes we would. Now a quick caveat here that there are a couple of sex scenes here, so if that is not your cup of tea then you probably won’t like it. However, I found it equal parts charming and touching, with a fantastic cast and real heart.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch
Directed by – Michael Steiner
Written by – Thomas Meyer
Music by – Adrian Frutiger & Michael Schertenleib
Cinematography by – Michael Saxer
Edited by – Benjamin Fueter
Production/Distribution Companies – DCM Productions, Schweizer Fernsehen (FS), Turnus Film & Netflix
Starring – Joel Basman, Noémie Schmidt, Udo Samel, Sunnyi Melles, Rachel Braunschweig, Meytal Gal, Inge Maux, Oriana Schrage, Michael Rutman, Lena Kalisch, Kamil Krejcí, Aaron Arens, Zoe Simijonovic, Andreas Pegler & Friederike Frerichs
Rating – Around an Australia: MA15+;