Rachel Weisz continues her run of serious dramatic roles (Denial, The Mercy) having long left behind her lightweight roles in The Mummy & Fred Claus. Disobedience has her as Ronit, a New York based photographer who gets a phone call informing her that her father, a respected Rabbi, has died at his London Synagogue. Returning home for the funeral she finds that her share of the probate will be his house giving her the means to be financially free.
From the moment she returns home for the wake it’s clear there’s more going on here when her brother David (Alessandro Nivola), now himself a respected rabbi , opens the front door. No welcome home of the prodigal daughter, no hugs, smiles or embraces just an awkward almost embarrassed ushering into the home with family and friends all a little awkward around her not really knowing what to say. It’s a bit like Teresa May working up the courage to tell her cabinet about the Brexit deal she negotiated knowing that she’s fooling no one. The best Ronit gets is ‘What’s wrong with you?” from her brother.
It’s only when Ronit is put up in his brother and sister in laws spare room in the attic that bit by bit the film moves towards why this awkward atmosphere exists, why she fled both the UK and her faith. Writer / director Sebastian Leilo, who co-writes with Rebecca Lenkiewicz, has written a film based on the Naomi Alderman novel and the film has several pivotal and compelling moments namely an uncomfortable family dinner with relatives pressing her to settle down and get married – a pressure she has already resisted preferring her independence and the freedom that comes with it. But it’s a scene where she looks around her father’s now empty house with her sister in law Esti (Rachel McAdams) where its finally revealed why her arrival has caused such uncomfortable atmosphere and the film takes an unexpected turn.
Ultimately Disobedience is a three hander stage play with three great performances, each with a decent character ark and though the story is hardly new its Jewish setting gives an insight into what is a universal theme of forbidden love and forgiveness and ultimately is, in part, uplifting. Well made as it is Disobedience is better suited to Sunday night Channel 4 drama with its, at times controversial and explicit scenes.
Here’s the Disobedience trailer……