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Film Reviews Review: The Women’s Balcony is an absorbing take on sexism and faith

Emil Ben-Shimon’s delightful Israeli dramedy The Women’s Balcony begins with a crash: A synagogue’s balcony, to which women are relegated, gives way during a bar mitzvah.

Ismach Hatani/Globe and Mail Update

3 out of 4 stars

Title
The Women’s Balcony
Written by
Shlomit Nehama
Directed by
Emil Ben-Shimon
Starring
Evelin Hagoel, Avraham Aviv Alush, Igal Naor
Classification
PG
Country
Israel
Language
Hebrew

Emil Ben-Shimon's delightful Israeli dramedy begins with a crash: A synagogue's balcony, to which women are relegated, gives way during a bar mitzvah. After the concrete crashes, the wife of an elderly rabbi is severely injured and the congregation's happy little world is turned upside down.

The tragedy overwhelms the old rabbi to the point that a younger seminarian, Rabbi David, takes over. He's mesmerizing and boldly orthodox, full of strict ideas on women's modesty. Sides are taken; wives and husbands are caught in a battle of the sexes. At one point, the electricity goes off during a dinner. A "Sabbath gentile" arrives to fix the circuit breaker, but Rabbi David objects to this get-around of religious law.

We can view his preference that everyone should remain in the dark as an allegory. Well conceived, deftly comic and finely acted (particularly Evelin Hagoel as the gutsy wives' ringleader), The Women's Balcony overlooks nothing when it comes to addressing faith, segregation and sexism in a peppery, entertaining way.

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