Nina's Tragedies

on March 25, 2005 by Tim Cogshell
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Nadav (Aviv Elkabets), a 14-year-old Israeli boy, is desperately in love with his Aunt Nina (Ayelet July Zurer), the beautiful younger sister of his recently divorced mother. He's resigned to love her from afar as Nina is has recently married Haimon, her long-term boyfriend (Yoram Hatav) who's a solider in the Israeli military. When Haimon is killed in a terrorist attack, Nina is devastated, and Nadav is sent to live with her to offer comfort and company. He sees this as a chance to proclaim his love, all of which is documented very carefully (and graphically) in his diary, which, unfortunately, he loses.

The underlying Oedipal element in writer/director Savi Gabizon's bright and insightful film might play as unseemly in less capable hands, particularly when involving the tragedy of losing a loved one to a terrorist attack, but Gabizon weaves these and a number of other ostensibly distressing elements into "Nina's Tragedies" with a deftly designed quirkiness that balances equal measures of confusion, pain, humor and serendipity. As Nina finds herself attracted to a handsome and emotional photographer, Avinoam (Alon Aboutboul), whom she met on the evening she was notified of Haimon's death, Nadav becomes jealous and withdraws, leaving Nina that much more alone. Nina becomes immersed in guilt for thinking of another man, and begins to believe that she is seeing her late husband walking about the city naked and lurking at her bedroom window. Meanwhile, Nadav's very religious father falls ill and wants to reconcile with his son, which confuses Nadav's emotions that much more.

The raging hormones of a teenager alongside the despair of a mourning widow may not seem like fodder for a story more often funny than sad (the title notwithstanding), but "Nina's Tragedies" is, for the most part, a warm and hopeful film that accepts the facts of despair and lust, but never diminishes the salvaging power of love -- in whatever form and under any circumstances it may appear. With the help of a number of striking performances, especially from the devastatingly beautiful Zurer and the young Elkabets, this is a thoughtful and satisfying film of the sort American filmmakers rarely achieve. Starring Ayelet July Zurer and Aviv Elkabets. Directed and written by Savi Gabizon. Produced by Savi Gabizon and Anat Assoulin. A Wellspring release. Drama. Hebrew-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 110 min

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