Late Marriage (Hebrew)

The Jewish people in “Late Marriage,” set in Israel, are traditional in the sense of allowing tradition to dictate much of their behavior, but decidedly unorthodox in their manner of speech and general demeanor.

For example, it is not because of a religious belief in chastity that the parents are angry at their son for sleeping with a woman he’s not married to. It’s because she’s older than he is, and she’s been divorced. The premarital sex, one gets the feeling, is OK.

In this sad comedy, written and directed by Dover Koshashvili, the son is 31-year-old Zaza (Lior Ashkenazi), a perfectly handsome, well-educated man who is frustrating his parents by continuing to remain unmarried. The folks, Yasha (Moni Moshonov) and Lili (Lili Koshashvili), take him from house to house, basically, trying to arrange nuptials with any eligible young lady they can find. At the film’s outset, it’s Ilana (Aya Steinovits Laor), a sharp-tongued but pretty 17-year-old. She’s so pretty, in fact, that Yasha is ready to take her himself if Zaza doesn’t want her.

And he doesn’t, because he already has a girlfriend, the aforementioned divorcee, Judith (Ronit Elkabetz), who comes complete with a daughter (Sapir Kugman). Judith and Zaza have an active, comfortable sex life, shown in curiously graphic detail here, as if making the point that the sex is a vital thing to this relationship. But he has not told his parents about her, because he knows they will not approve.

Zaza’s indomitable relatives provide some audacious laughs, particularly in their surprisingly crude dialogue — not the sort of talk you expect from religious devotees, anyway. Zaza’s mother is the linchpin in this matriarchal society, and their interaction is the most poignant. This film contains the saddest wedding I’ve ever seen, made more depressing by how happy everyone seems.

The pacing is rather slow, and the camera lingers behind in some scenes long after they are finished. This fact alone diminishes the film’s impact. But the acting from the leads is sincere and compelling, and the movie is invaluable as a window into another society.

B- (1 hr., 38 min.; in Hebrew with English subtitles; R, some profanity and crude language, some graphic sexuality and nudity.)