Off-White Lies: Film Review

The winning performances by its two leads elevate this contrived Israeli import.

A father and his young daughter form an emotional bond while posing as war refugees in this hit Israeli comedy/drama from director Maya Kenig.

Israeli filmmaker Maya Kenig uses the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah as a springboard for an exploration of the troubled relationship between a father and daughter in her debut feature, Off-White Lies. Nominated for seven Israeli Academy Awards including best film, it doesn’t fully live up to its provocative premise but provides some amusing and moving moments along the way.

At the film’s beginning, thirteen-year-old Libi (Elya Inbar) arrives in Israel to stay with her father Shaul (Gur Bentvich), who she barely knows, after an unexplained stay in California. She soon discovers that he’s both unemployed and homeless, a self-described inventor of such things as fake turd that doubles as a secret repository for keys.

Needing a place for them to stay, the fast-talking Shaul hatches a scheme in which they’ll pretend to be refugees from the war-torn northern region of the country. They’re soon taken in by a kindly well-off Jerusalem couple, whose open marriage provides him with a convenient romantic opportunity. It’s one of but many deceptions that threaten to unravel the growing bond between father and daughter.

The screenplay by Kenig and Dana Diment withholds as much as it discloses, to sometimes annoying effect. While the central relationship is intriguingly explored, the shifts of tone between earnest family drama and satirical comedy are handled in less than artful fashion. But thanks mainly to the appealing performances by the two leads, the film is involving nonetheless.

The charismatic Bentvich is very effective as the shiftless father who finds himself embracing responsibility for the first time, while Inbar well conveys her character’s complex mixture of adolescent rebelliousness and emotional neediness. Their finely tuned interplay ultimately prevents Off-White Lies from succumbing to the mechanics of its contrived plotline.   

Production: Gum Films, KinoElektron (Film Movement)
Cast: Gur Bentwich, Elya Inbar, Salit Achi-Miriam, Arad Yeini, Tzahi Grad, Shimon Mimran, Sigal Arad Inbar
Director: Maya Kenig
Screenwriters: Maya Kenig, Dana Diment
Producers: Aurit Zamir, Yoav Roeh
Director of photography: Itai Vinograd
Editor: Or Ben David
Production designer: Ido Dolev
Costume designer: Yael Kredo
Composer: Udi Berner
Not rated, 86 min.          

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