E1 Entertainment // 2012 // 105 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // April 11th, 2013
Two families divided by fate. United by understanding.
Upon reaching the mandatory age, young Israeli citizen Joseph Silberg (Jules Sitruk, Son of Rambow) prepares for his state-required tour in the military. This makes his commander dad ecstatic. A simple pre-enlistment blood test reveals something shocking, however. Joseph is not the son of Alon (Pascal Elbé) and Orith (Emmanuelle Devos, Coco Before Chanel) Silberg. No, it turns out that, when he was born, a bombing attack lead to the evacuation of a small hospital, and in the process, a mix up with the Al Bezaaz family...who just so happen to be Palestinian. In turn, an investigation proves that young Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi) is actually the Silberg's boy, and not the son of Leila (Oreen Amari) and Said (Khalifa Natour). As both sides come together to resolve the issue, tensions are high. Of course, as with most stories of this type, understanding usurps antagonism to win the day...sort of.
It would be nice to say that The Other Son is biting without being unbearable. It would also be nice to say that co-writer/director Lorraine Levy finds an intriguing way to deal with the problems in the Middle East while setting them within a recognizable-if melodramatic-family conflict. To repeat, it would be nice, but it's not going to happen. This is a toothless bore, a film following the standard structures of melodrama to argue for a "can't we all get along" piece of political pipedreaming. Now, if you are heavily invested in the region's various crises and sectarian struggles, everything here will play pleasantly. It will feel authentic without being forced, familiar while skirting the more serious concerns the topic might present. But Levy is more interested in home life than homeland. She wants her "us vs. them" cake and then to serve it up without any real substance.
Like many movies (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Infidel) which trod heavily over hot button issues to get to their real agenda (sappy sentimentality, goofball comedy, respectively), The Other Son stifles itself by avoiding any tentative truths. After all, cultural clash is no substitute for suicide bombings and forced land reclamation. True, Levy would only invite criticism by highlighting said horrors within a switched at birth narrative, but they really can't be avoided. It's like Spike Lee addressing urban angst and not putting drugs in the picture (ala Do the Right Thing). Sometimes, you can get away with it (see before). In other instances, like here, it makes for something wholly unsatisfying and slight. There are some decent performance and a real feel for the region, but overall, The Other Son is too focused on the periphery to make an impact. A decent balance between pride and prejudice, religion and reality would have been nice. Like we said before, would have been.
As far as the Blu-ray tech specs go, The Other Son looks and sounds excellent. The 2.35:1/1080p transfer highlights the various details Levy has placed in the film, while the contrasts in color and location really serve the story. The image is colorful without going overboard, and polished without losing some of its "you are there" luster. As for the aural elements, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix takes the multiple languages involved and turns them all into an easy listening experience. There is some immersion and a good use of both spatial and background cues. On the downside, the subtitles sometimes lag behind. As for added content, there is a 30 minutes making-of (good), a deleted scene (unnecessary), a collection of bloopers (funny) and a trailer (meh). Overall, a solid digital package.
Perhaps if the narrative had found a way to analogize the various regional fractures into the flimsy family plot, The Other Son would have worked. As it stands, it's a well meaning if noble failure.
Guilty. Too much melodrama, not enough meaning.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scene