Film Club 13th June ”Menashe” @ 8pm
Dir: Joshua Weinstein USA 2017 82mins Cert: CLUB
Language: Yiddish, English Starring: Menashe Lustig, Yoel Falkowitz, Hershy Fishman
Menashe is a deeply felt and absorbing Yiddish-language drama about New York Hasidic Jews. Director Joshua Weinstein expertly seals you in a self-enclosed world whose drama, but for a few plot points concerning an elderly mobile phone, could as well be happening 50 or 100 years ago. Menashe (played by non-professional Menashe Lustig) is an overweight, shambling widower who works in a convenience store and who has clearly let himself go, though he may not have been all that svelte and presentable in the first place. According to religious rules enforced by the rabbi, Menashe’s young son may not live with him until Menashe remarries; the boy has to stay with his late wife’s disapproving, controlling brother who takes a dim viewof Menashe’s chaotic lifestyle and clearly blames him in some way for his sister’s death. Dates set up by the matchmaker are an ordeal, and Menashe has other reasons for angrily embracing his sadness, slobbishness and self-lacerating loneliness. These are revealed, interestingly, to the Hispanic guys who work in the store: he somehow can’t talk to his own community, and this moment of revelation is the more startling for not being expressed in Yiddish. It’s an intensely emotional movie about marriage, bereavement and patriarchal domestic power-politics that reminded me of Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void (2012) or Dover Kosashvili’s Late Marriage (2001) starring the late Ronit Elkabetz –although this is from a very male perspective. A thoroughly sympathetic and mature performance from Lustig in the title role. –Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.