What a clever film. Joseph Cedar's fourth feature won Best Screenplay at Cannes and was nominated for the Best Foreign Picture Oscar. No wonder. It brims with intelligence - academic, emotional, structural - as it explores manhood through work and family.
The film opens with Uriel's (Ashkenazi) admittance into the National Israel Academy of Sciences, his entire acceptance speech a single shot into the saturnine face of his father (Bar-Aba). It's the first in several dazzling narrative set pieces where Cedar elegantly uses the tools at his command to illustrate the complex relationship between an underachieving, difficult man and his well-credentialed, likable son. Both are scholars, but where Eliezer has prized meticulous diligence, Uriel has drawn conclusions and published to acclaim.
Once the plot's pivotal event occurs - a heated ethical discussion about the Israel Prize which would be criminal to divulge - Cedar holds the audience captive with a mastery of editing and meaningful irony that culminates in an ambiguous, but resonant climax.
The film swings between wry whimsy and deep drama, perhaps to spice up the "Rival Talmudic scholars!" stuff, but while the laughs keep things limber they temper the film's power. No matter, the entirety is such a piquant and enlightening excursion into morality and humanity, you'll feel smarter for it.
Sharp, elegant craft at every level.