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Footnote

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Joseph Cedar

Mar 20, 2012 Web Exclusive
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Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik are father and son scholars; each a well-regarded researcher within the field of Talmudic studies with their own individual idea of what should qualify that distinguishment. This familial rivalry is at the center of director Joseph Cedar’s absorbing and often darkly comic Footnote, Israel’s Academy Award nominee for best foreign picture.

The middle-aged Uriel is an esteemed speaker and author, regularly garnering accolades for his works. Meanwhile, the elder Shkolnik and his research have gone unrecognized by his peers for decades; it’s hinted that his reclusive, antisocial personality are no small factor into that. It seems as if this will all turn around when Eliezer receives a phone call informing him that he has been elected to receive the Israel Prize, the highest honor in their field and one that he has been working toward for the entirety of his long career.

In the film’s best scene, the younger Uriel is informed by the Prize’s voting committee that the award was meant for him, and the call to his father had been a mistake. The scene expertly marries impassioned ethical arguments with broad physical comedy (the discussion takes place in a closet-sized office) and is a strong example of the film’s mix of dry humor and bleak drama. Ultimately, it all leads to Uriel being presented with a choice: inform his father of the mistake and run the risk of destroying what’s left of their strained relationship, or give up his own chance of ever receiving the biggest honor in his field of study.

Cedar mines this drama well, utilizing a wide variety of clever editing tactics, from splitscreen to animated graphics, to keep the action gripping even for viewers without the slightest knowledge of Talmud texts. The two main actors breathe life into their characters’ pathos and various neuroses: each is fully believable, and you can empathize in their frustrations with each other. For the length of the film, father and son grapple separately with their own egos and suspicions without ever bringing them to head (or even interacting with each other in any significant manner); this leaves the conflict with little payoff, and the abrupt and unsatisfying close leaves perhaps a bit too much unresolved. However, the buildup is thoroughly engaging enough to overlook the big faults in the film’s final act. (www.sonyclassics.com/footnote)

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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Neveah
May 4th 2012
3:30am

What an aewmsoe way to explain this-now I know everything!