It has taken a while for Avi Nesher’s 2010 drama – a serious story with comic undertones – to make it to our shores. But the wait has been worthwhile. This is a warm take on Israeli life that incorporates the shadow the Holocaust cast upon the nation’s life in the late 1960s. It could only have taken place in one country, but it has lessons for us all.
Beginning with a framing sequence set during the 2006 Lebanon war, the film flashes back to find Arik (Tuval Shafir), a naive teenager on the cusp of sexual awakening, as he goes to work as "spy guy" to Yankele Bride, a scarred Romanian matchmaker, with the task of ensuring that clients are genuinely seeking marriage rather than easy sex. The film slips in references to hard-boiled US crime fiction, and, in the course of his investigations, Arik uncovers a colourful semi-legal demimonde. Along the way, he also falls for an American girl who brings flavours of exciting new possibilities.
There are some familiar coming-of-age tropes here. But the busy plotting, sense of looming history and gorgeous performances set it aside from the pack. A delightful film that adds just enough sugar to its more bitter pills.