Maya (Maya Maron) is about to take the stage of a youth band competition dressed in black glitter and gossamer wings when she gets a call from her mother insisting she come home to care for younger siblings Ido (Daniel Magon) and Bahr (the adorable and natural Eliana Magon). Maya initially rebels, but realizes that her mother's job as a midwife is all the support the family has, so she tearfully rides her bike home while the older man she idolizes, Yoram (Danny Niv), takes the stage and sings in her stead. The next morning, Maya strikes out at her brother Yair (Nitai Gaviratz), whose constant absence means increased responsibility on her shoulders, but the truth of the matter is that since the death of their father, every member of the Ulman family has "Broken Wings."
Writer/director Nir Bergman's "Broken Wings" is a typical family drama made noteworthy by its contemporary setting in the Israeli port city of Haifa and a fine ensemble cast. Although all the children are feeling the aftershock of losing their father nine months earlier in a particularly trivial accident (he was stung by a bee, which he was allergic to, yet failed to give himself a ready injection for reasons unknown), the main thread concerns mother Dafna's (Orly Silbersatz Banai) steep uphill emotional struggle and her over reliance on her guilt-conflicted seventeen year old daughter Maya.
At first, it seems like young Ido and Bahr might be Maya's children as Maya could easily pass for ten years older than her age. We learn that Dafna is struggling out of a deep depression, having wanted only to sleep on the unwashed sheets that still bore the scent of her husband (Eitan Green, seen in family videos). Dafna's exhaustion (and Banai really makes us feel it) is complicated by late nights at the hospital and symbolized by her unreliable car, which frequently must be pushed uphill in order to get it started. Yair has given over to philosophies of teenaged angst (nothing matters, we're all specks of dust, etc.) and quit school to hand out flyers dressed in a mouse costume. Ido practices high jumps and spends afternoons videotaping his technique at an empty swimming pool. Bahr is the baby of the family, dependent on a others who suddenly can barely care for themselves.
When Maya spends an afternoon with the friend, Gaga, who has loved her since third grade, she forgets, for the first time, to pick Bahr up from school. Instead, Bahr reaches Ido, who insists she accompany him to the forbidden pool. An accident thrusts the family into crisis and Maya, now bearing the guilt of her father's death (he was waiting for her when his accident occurred), Ido's accident, Bahr's abandonment and her mother's lashing out, flees, following Yoram to a Tel Aviv recording studio.
Bergman's script is full of symbolic objects and actions which define and link the characters. Maya wasn't with her father when he was stung by a bee and we first see her wearing black wings. Yair's suicidal girlfriend Iris (Dana Ivgi0) breaks through to him when she steps into a window to 'fly.' Flora (Yarden Bar-Kochba), Yair's school counselor tries to engage him in a ball tossing exercise which he aggressively rejects just before we see Ido slamming a ball against the empty swimming pool wall (Iris is introduced playing basketball as well). Ido's empty pool is contrasted against the full baths Dafna falls asleep in while Maya sloshes water across their floors, staying her tears by cleaning.
Maron plays Maya as a strong woman whose shoulders are beginning to sag under the weight of family obligations. Her mercurial appearance is used to good advantage to project the many moods she swings through during the course of the film. Her ephemeral singing voice is both believable for a modern rock band and fragile enough to evoke the emotional pain of her lyrics. Orly Silbersatz Banai is terrific as the matriarch, though, despondent and hopeful, beaten down but pushing through. Banai projects motherly concern, anger and tenderness, all through a convincing mask of one utterly deprived of rest. Vladimir Friedman ("Yana's Friends") is a plus as Dr. Valentin Goldman, a new hospital employee Dafna keeps literally running into and a potential love interest (Berman nicely stops with the suggestion).
"Broken Wings" ends of a note of humor and healing when Dafna responds to her daughter's cries and heads to Tel Aviv to fetch her. 'I'm a terrible mother - I turned the engine off' she laughs, realizing her car has once again become useless while also intimating her emotional shutdown has come to an end.
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