EmptyBerlin International Film Festival.
BERLIN -- "Restless" has two extremely restless characters, a father and son divided by a 21-year estrangement and half the world. Amos Kollek's film regards these two characters as epitomizing the schizophrenic souls of Israelis in the 21st century, questioning their identities and debating what it means to be an Israeli and a Jew. The film takes place simultaneously in New York and Israel as the two men, angry and bitter in their restlessness, move toward a fateful meeting.
Obviously, the film has a built-in Jewish audience. But the film makes its characters' search for family and identity universal enough to connect with adult audiences in specialty venues around the world.
Israeli actor Moshe Ivgy, who has the rumpled, worn handsomeness of Norman Mailer when he was in his 50s, plays the restless father. Moshe abandoned Israel, his wife and infant son some 20 years earlier for the supposed land of opportunity, America. He hasn't made it yet. He's behind on his rent, peddles junk on the sidewalk and, assuming the role of "a village sewer poet," spouts terrible, visceral poems in a Manhattan bar, mostly rhyming rants about his disappointment with life, with Israel and with love. Against all odds, he develops a following.
Moshe never answered a single letter his heart-broken wife sent to him. Not once in 20 years. Now she is dead and the son he ignored since birth is a killer albeit a sanctioned one: Tzach (Ran Danker) is a top sniper in the Israeli army where he plans to make his career. When he accidentally shoots a Palestinian boy though that plan evaporates. He is utterly rootless now without a mother, without a profession and without a father for a role model.
As the writer-director cuts between his dual stories, you realize just how alike father and son are: Both are keenly disappointed, restless, unhappy souls. Each longs to confront the other but can't imagine what to say. Two decades have built up a lot of guilt, resentment and pain.
Moshe launches into a budding romance with a younger woman, a bartender at his poetry gig, who has a young son. He suddenly senses that here is the family he once fled but now seeks. There is a flicker of hope in his heart, but will his own sarcastic and mean personality stand in the way of his happiness?
Kollek tries out a few subplots that don't work. An older, somewhat suicidal woman comes into Moshe's life randomly, perhaps to remind him of his now dead ex-wife. Tzach falls in with a group of Israeli Arabs after his army discharge and picks up female tourists with them, perhaps to remind him how rootless he now is.
The promised confrontation between father and son has a good deal of power and the two actors make the sequence memorable. The ending feels a little pat though. These two restless men have such bile built up in their systems, it would take more than a day to resolve all those issues.
Tech credits in locations in Israel, New York and Montreal are solid.
Bavarian Film International presents a Hamon Productions and Pie Films production
Cast: Moshe Ivgy, Ran Danker, Karen Young, Phyllis Sommerville, Michael Moshonov, Tzahi Grad.
Director/screenwriter: Amos Kollek.
Producers: Talia Kleinhendler, Michal Tapuach, Martin Paul Hus, Sebastien Delloye, Diana Elbaum, Thanassis Karathanos, Colin Stanfield, Marilyn Watelet.
Director of photography: Virginie Saint Martin.Production designer: John Meighen.
Music: Delphine Measroch.
Costume designer: Janet Campbell.
Editor: Isaak Sehayek.
No rating, 103 minutes.