An Israeli film with no mention of politics, Broken Wings concentrates instead on the members of a family as they cope variously with the absence of the father, who died nine months previous. The cluttered texture of life is shown in a way you don't often see anymore in American films, and it's interesting to see Israeli life reclaimed, as it were, from the chokehold of the political situation (although some have chosen to see the film in allegorical terms).
That, and the fetching lead actress, Maya Maron, are just about the only reasons to see the film, although it's not really bad --- it just left me indifferent. The family disintegrates and eventually begins to heal, there are conflicts, there are touching moments, tears, etc. What feels like a crack at a rich tapestry of life, like a pared-down Yi-Yi, say, winds up a bit thinner than was evidently intended.
The film does a good job of rotating the focus on all five members of the family --- realistic, well-played characters --- but it did a terrible job of making me care. Three out of the four kids are kind of irritating, which at least worked in gaining my sympathy for the elder daughter, played by Maron, who is always stuck taking care of the rest. When her little brother winds up in a coma, I certainly felt the force of inconvenience for her, but not much else. The whole thing just felt a little too rote.
That was certainly not the only pang of familiarity. There are a few "indie movie" quirky images, like that of the Maron riding a bike with wings on her back, or the son in a giant mouse suit sitting on the subway next to his beleaguered mother, that feel a little left over from the '80s. But more than anything else, the story felt like a modest mainstream American flick about people finding their way. In America came to mind, although this has none of the sap and cheese driving that particular enterprise.
It was a little disappointing to sense the presence of a Hollywood-film lattice undergirding the structure of what looks and feels like a more interesting foreign film. I got this feeling early, and by the time the movie was over, I felt we had just covered completely familiar ground. I later read that the director, Nir Bergman (this is his first film), claims to have seen Ordinary People 30 to 40 times, and it's obvious he's also seen plenty else in this vein. It is hard to escape the thought, watching Broken Wings, that you have as well. Broken Wings (R) is at the Little for one more night only, Wednesday, June 9.
--- Andy Davis