Film review: Disobedience

Rachels McAdams and Weisz rekindle a forbidden affair.

click to enlarge The Rachels share an intense moment. - AGATHA A. NITECKA, COURTESY MONGREL MEDIA
Agatha A. Nitecka, courtesy Mongrel Media
The Rachels share an intense moment.

Rachels McAdams and Weisz star in Sebastián Lelio’s Disobedience, which follows Ronit (Weisz) home to bury her father, a prominent rabbi in a Orthodox Jewish community. A new rabbi, Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), has been named in his stead; unfortunately for Ronit he’s married to Esti (McAdams), the woman she was exiled from the community for being attracted to. Weisz has the showier role, the free-spirit photographer in a leather jacket, but McAdams has always been very good at understated (and this is straight-up repression). Nivola, usually wonderful, is saddled with the stiff, traditional, humourless, love-ruining part.

In a forbidden-love-style movie like this—and Blue is the Warmest Colour, and Call Me By Your Name—all anyone wants to know, fairly or not, is “what about the sex scenes?” There’s only one but it’s worth seeing the movie for (note the  innovative spit work), and unlike Blue’s camera, Lelio’s belies his male gaze to focus on their faces. It takes until this point, quite late, for the film to come to life—it's pretty dour, all dark colours and clipped speech, even if the subtext is flaming as the Rachels walk around together—and there’s a brief section in the third act that borders on thrilling. Disobedience is not a wholly satisfactory experience, but it is always a joy to see two actors on the same level lean into the nuances of the human heart.

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