Late Marriage (Hatuna Meuheret)

Zaza (Lior Ashkenazi) is 31, still in college and still unmarried, much to his traditional mama Lili's (Lili Kosashvili, the director's mother) dismay. As she meets with the neighborhood Yenta and arranges one meeting after another for Zaza, he continues his affair with Judith (Ronit Elkabetz), an older divorced Moroccan mother, hoping that things will magically work out in his favor. As Lili hides talismans containing foreskins under the beds of approved young women, Judith burns love potions to cleave Zaza's heart to hers, ensuring that one way or another, Zaza's destined for a "Late Marriage."

Laura's Review: B+

Georgian born Israeli writer/director Dover Kosashvili's feature debut won nine Israeli Academy Awards. This simply shot character study of tradition in the modern world takes place entirely in six small apartments - that of Zaza, his parents', their neighbors' and the matchmakers' within the same complex, that of the family of a bridal prospect and Judith's. It's telling that while there are only three exterior locations used, two are asphalt parking lots whereas the exterior outside of Judith's building is an exotic palm tree-lined sidewalk. Kosashvili places his camera and leaves it to simply record the interior action.

The film begins with a lot of humor. A man smokes a cigarette to the nub as his wife soaps him down in the bath. Lili, who resembles a stern version of Marianne Sagebrecht crossed with Miriam Margolyes, arrives. 'How'd you get so fat?' asks the matchmaker. 'She eats right out of the pots!' responds Lili's husband.

Zaza's dragged to meet Ilana, a seventeen year old vixen who allows him a makeout session when they retire to her room to 'get to know one another.' No commitments are made and Zaza drives his parents home, immediately departing to visit Judith. Zaza brings groceries and mock acts with a coconut and samurai sword. The two lovers have an extended night of lovemaking, punctuated with talk both practical and playful. Games are played with Judith's daughter, who calls him Dooby while her mother denies his existence. Clearly this is Zaza's routine, including the indulgence of his mother's teenage prospects.

But on this night, Lili left her purse in Zaza's car and his parents are locked out of their apartment. Forced to stay with a neighbor, they realize Zaza is still engaged in his forbidden affair. Lili is determined that no divorcee will have her son, and marches the extended family to Judith's apartment for a showdown.

Kosashvili's deftly written script prods his audience to think about his characters' motivations (and his own for casting his own mother!). While Zaza and Judith seem so well-matched and clearly love each other, Judith sees the little boy who bends to his mother and realizes that Lili is right - she is not the woman for him, just as Lili almost relents, having come to see Judith as a fine woman. Is tradition really driving Lili or is she reacting to a hurt caused by her own husband earlier in her own life? Father and drunken son have a funny and tearful heart to heart in the men's room at Zaza's wedding reception as Zaza admires the sperm sac from which he sprang ('Don't greet your mother like that!' advises dad). Then father theatrically leads off a traditional dance, adhering to the script that life's given him after his own youthful rebellion was also beaten down.

The actors are all perfectly cast and their director ably places his immigrants as a tightly knit community in a new world. Mother Kosashvili is a natural as the black clad steamroller who bends peoples' wills then gives them presents to restore affection. Elkabetz is an earthy stunner who makes us mourn the ironic loss of her lover even as we admire her practical strength. Ashkenazi remains likeable even when he acts caddishly. 'I have a woman more beautiful than my wife,' he tells his wedding guests. Is it mother?