Tehilim

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CANNES -- Raphael Nadjar's sincere but dull In Competition film "Tehilim" (Psalms) tells of what happens when a man suddenly disappears from his otherwise peaceful Jerusalem neighborhood. The story examines not the politics of the region but the religious impact the man's absence has on his wife and two sons. That narrow focus will limit the film's appeal severely.

Schmuel Vilojni plays Eli, a devout Jewish man who leads his less committed wife, Alma (Limor Goldstein), and his devoted sons Menachem (Michael Moshonov) and David (Yonathan Alster) in the rituals of his faith. Menachem also eagerly attends a bible study group run by his intense grandfather Schmuel (Ilan Dar).

One day, Eli loses control of his car and David is injured. He sends Menachem to get help but when the boy returns with paramedics for his little brother, he finds his dad missing. His disappearance is never explained.

The film implies such an event is not entirely uncommon in a country so bedeviled by strife but everyone reacts calmly, with even Alma not displaying overt amounts of grief. The grandfather's main concern is that her house be made into a place of prayer and insists on bringing friends and relatives to visit.

When Alma resists, Menachem contrives a scheme whereby he and David will give out the prayer books that his grandfather and uncle are having made to strangers on the street. He also thinks it's a good idea to steal his mother's cash savings and give money away with the books. This scheme upsets both his mother and grandfather, and that's as exciting as the film gets.

There's a lot of prayer reading with David's "Psalms" front and center. It may make sense to the devout but it's tiresome to the more secular minded.
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