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The Statesman

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The Statesman

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    Staller Style: Down and Out in Tel Aviv

    “Jellyfish” (“Meduzot” in Hebrew), the only slightly less depressing choice at the Staller Center last Friday, is one of those films that falls into the same category as “Babel,” “21 Grams,” or “Traffic.”

    In giving us three disparate stories and the criss-crossing lives of at least 15 different characters, we are meant to understand something new and deep about what it is to be human in this day and age.

    “Jellyfish” succeeds, but only by compromising true character development and real emotion for an understated look and feel, where the less the characters say, the more we are meant to grasp.

    The three main strands of the film focus on Batya, a young woman who works at a wedding catering service and barely makes ends meet; Keren, a young woman who breaks her foot during her wedding reception and has to spend her honeymoon in an Israeli hotel instead of the Caribbean; and Joy, a Filipino guest-worker who doesn’t speak Hebrew, yet keeps getting assigned to care for elderly women who for the most part don’t want her there.

    What makes these characters more interesting than they initially appear are the other people in their lives. Batya gains meaning in her life when a little red-haired girl emerges from the sea, and Batya decides to take care of her when no one comes looking for her. Her search for the little girl when she disappears causes her to befriend another young woman from the catering hall, a second-generation Holocaust survivor and photographer.

    Keren and her new husband, despite arguing over petty discomforts on their ruined honeymoon, come together when they realize that another hotel guest is in serious trouble.

    Joy and Galia, the woman she takes care of, go to see Galia’s daughter play Ophelia and realize that they may share some of the same problems as mothers.

    The understated nature of the plot and the palette of muted blues and yellows make this an artistic — perhaps even poetic — film, brimming with pathos that some might read as bathos.

    There is nothing quite original about the film and the sentiments it elicits are overwhelmingly that of depression and weariness.

    Though by the end Batya may have learned something about her past and her new relationship appears that it will carry her into a new era in her life, it is difficult to shake off the film’s feelings of disjunction and isolation.

    A Cannes Film Festival award-winner, “Jellyfish” certainly has its strong points — characters we identify with and feel for; an unremitting sense of reality; and an understated aesthetic unmarred by typical Hollywood excesses. At worst, it might be considered Amores Perros lite.

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