Wednesday 12 December 2018

Disobedience review: 'It's far from terrible, it's just disappointing - somehow that's worse'

3 stars

Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams in Disobedience
Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams in Disobedience

Chris Wasser

Something’s not quite right here.

Perhaps we expected too much of Disobedience, a slow, romantic drama about a British photographer, living in New York, who returns home for her father’s funeral.

It is, after all, a film by Sebastián Lelio, the Chilean-Argentine film-maker behind the exquisite A Fantastic Woman. That remarkable piece of cinema — a vibrant, expertly handled tale about a transgender woman struggling to overcome prejudice and personal tragedy in Santiago, Chile — picked up the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film earlier this year.

You can hardly blame us, then, for approaching Disobedience — Lelio’s first English-language feature — with great anticipation. Look at that cast, for crying out loud (Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz are the leads). Alas, the end product hasn’t turned out as we’d hoped.

Ronit Krushka (Weisz) is the aforementioned photographer from North London, who’s been living in New York for quite some time. One day, she receives a call to say that her father — a respected rabbi, to whom she is estranged— has died.

Returning home to the house of her cousin, Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), Ronit isn’t exactly given the warmest welcome. Probably because she refuses to fall in line with the Orthodox Jewish community in which she was raised. She’s also shocked to discover that Dovid (a strict traditionalist, and her father’s greatest student) has married an old friend of hers.

Enter Esti (Rachel McAdams), a childhood pal with whom Ronit once shared a secret love affair. The longer Ronit stays around, the harder it is for she and Esti to bury their feelings for one another. Things get complicated.

It’s an intriguing set-up, based on the 2006 novel by Naomi Alderman. All of the pieces are in place — cast, story, director, etc. The problem is in the execution.

Yes, Lelio’s film is supposed to look cold and uninviting. It’s a harsh reflection of what’s happening in this story, and that’s fine. But it also moves at a snail’s pace, its decidedly average screenplay doing no favours for the fine actors out in front.

Disobedience is a bit too fond of itself, and isn’t nearly as smart as it thinks it is. It’s hard work, basically. Weisz is strong here, as is Nivola. But Rachel McAdams is sorely miscast as Esti, and her British accent is all over the place.

Don’t get me wrong, Disobedience is far from terrible. It’s just disappointing, is all. Somehow, that’s worse.

(15A, 114mins, releasing Nov 30)

Read more: 'There was an energy I haven't experienced in any other sex scene' - Rachel McAdams on love scene with Rachel Weisz

Also releasing this week:

Creed II review: 'Holds fast to Rocky traditions and, though rather predictable, is utterly irresistible'

 

The Wild Pear Tree review: 'Ceylan’s film is excellent, a joy for those with three hours to spare'

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet review: 'A high concept script pokes fun at our online obsessions'

 

Disobedience review: 'The acting’s excellent, but the story feels over-deliberate at times'

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