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A good performance from Tom Hollander can’t save this stodgy, ungainly and strangely reactionary family drama from the French writer-director Amanda Sthers, whose sticky Parisian comedy Madame was released here last year.
James Caan plays Harry, an ageing Jewish guy who is estranged from his wife and grown-up children, and has left New York for Nazareth in Israel, to breed pigs, of all the hilariously inappropriate things. Why? To annoy everyone, and maybe even annoy himself, in some restlessly unhappy way. His son David (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a dramatist and a gay man who has a play on Broadway about his exasperating old dad, based on the unanswered letters that he is sending him. Harry’s daughter Annabelle (Efrat Dor) is a neurotic thirtysomething still dependent on an allowance from Harry for her analyst’s bills. (Maybe all she needs is a man to give her a baby.) And Harry’s wife (Rosanna Arquette) has troubles of her own.
Out in Israel, Harry has a testy confrontation with Moshe (Hollander), a worldly, witty rabbi who initially objects to his pig-farming. But they then go from this antagonism to an out-and-out odd-couple bromance without any convincing psychological explanation or plausible bridging scene. And are we heading for some resolution? A reunion of Harry with his wife and family?
Well, in a way, though Sthers’s screenplay feels as if she is fudging the issue rather than addressing the messy compromises of real life. Her script has conservative-minded Harry brooding about the mental images of his children that he carries around: “In my mind, David doesn’t kiss other men on the mouth …” A misjudged touch, that. One among many.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Holy Lands review – misjudged Jewish pig-farmer drama | Drama films