Dan's Review: "Disobedience" pits love against religion
Jun 02, 2018 12:40AM ● Published by Dan Metcalf
Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams in Disobedience - © 2018 Bleecker Street.
Disobedience (Bleecker Street)
Rated R for some strong sexuality.
Starring Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Anton Lesser, Bernice Stegers, Allan Corduner, Nicholas Woodeson, Liza Sadovy, Clara Francis, Mark Stobbart, Caroline Gruber, Alexis Zegerman.
Written by Sebastián Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz, based on the novel by Naomi Alderman.
Directed by Sebastián Lelio.
Forbidden love is one of the oldest and most tragic sources of conflict in any drama. The person you can’t “have” is always the perfect person for you, despite some sort of societal rules in place. Such is the main point of conflict in Disobedience, the story of two Jewish women whose paths seem destined for convergence.
Rachel Weisz plays Ronit, the ostracized daughter of a London-area rabbi. When her father suddenly dies, Ronit returns from New York to her Jewish neighborhood to pay her respects. She soon discovers that Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) is the heir apparent to take over her father’s synagogue. She also discovers that Dovid is married to Esti (Rachel McAdams), another old friend with whom she’d had a sexual relationship years before that led to her being ostracized by her religious community. Despite Esti’s denial of her lesbian disposition, the pair eventually find themselves struggling with their true feelings for each other, leading to another sexual encounter. When the women are seen kissing in public by members of their congregation, Esti finds herself at risk to lose her job, her friends and Dovid’s position as rabbi. Meanwhile, Ronit struggles to come to terms with her father’s death and the love he failed to show her.
Disobedience is a well-crafted drama with excellent performances from Weisz and McAdams, who portray the star-crossed lovers stuck between the traditions of their religious culture and the feelings they cannot deny. Alessandro Nivola also delivers an excellent performance as a good man who struggles with his religious conviction and the truth about the women he loves.
The drama is well played, yet somewhat trite in its premise. I was not at all surprised by the outcome, nor the inevitable progression of events that position religion between desires of the flesh. Yes, it’s a tried and true formula, but formulaic indeed. I’m not sure we’re supposed to gain anything from Disobedience, except a morality tale in which morality and religious beliefs must always take a backseat to desire; or the opposite situation in which the lovers are forever denied intimacy.
I suppose that conflict is well founded in the title: either disobey God or disobey nature; you can’t have both - and that’s a no-win tragedy for all involved.