I didn’t realize how perfect a title “My Father My Lord” was until I started this review.
Menahem Eidelman is a young boy—nine or ten—and he’s filled with curiosity about the world. His mother, Esther, is a young woman, full of love for her child, and tolerant of her husband.
Menahem’s father is a hugely respected Rabbi. He spends countless hours preparing his sermons each night. He’ll be in his study, with eight or nine different books open, trying to draw wisdom from them.
He’s also big on ritual prayer. Before Menahem or Esther can go to sleep, they have to recite the bedtime prayer. There are other prayers, and Rabbi Eidelman is quick to quote scripture in answer to any question. When Menahem asks whether animals have souls, the Rabbi is quick to dismiss the idea, quoting some verse or another.
What we begin to see is that Menahem needs a father, not a scripture-quoting automaton. I mean no offense to any religious person, but we all need to have a human element in addition to our spirituality, and Rabbi Eidelman lacked one. His soul was pure, his faith strong, but his life was empty, and he couldn’t even see it.
One weekend, he, Esther, and Menahem take a weekend trip to The Dead Sea. It is there, on the bank of a sea full of biblical history, that Rabbi Menahem learned the lesson Menahem and Esther had been trying to teach him. Religion is good, but it’s a facet of life, not everything.
In many ways, this was just like an Ingmar Bergman film: there was irony, religious conflict, odd marriages, beautiful cinematography, and a spare, but lovely use of music.
“My Father My Lord” was NOT an Ingmar Bergman film, and that’s tragic. There is so much waiting and setting up, then the payoff lacks resolution.
I thought all the performances were first-rate, especially the Rabbi. It was a tough role, and he nailed it.
“My Father My Lord” clocks in at a short 73 minutes, rather short for a feature. The way it’s made, that’s a good lengh; given the huge set-up, if were 3 hours long, you’d want to drown yourself in The Dead sea.
This is a great picture that can’t quite get the greatness on the screen.
(My Father My Lord is available on Netflix streaming. Rated PG. In Hebrew with English subtitles)