A rainy day in Montreal on our way elsewhere, a perusal of great things to do in this lovely ville, and we notice The Montreal World Film Festival, go through the guide, picking out films that fit our timetable, and agree on the first: "Is That You?", described thusly:
"Newly unemployed, Ronnie, a 60-year-old Israeli projectionist decides to travel to America to find Rachel, the love of his life, a retracing of 'the road not taken'."
Ever since my offspring departed for Australia a month ago under the rubric, "Miles from Brooklyn: Adventures Offroads Less Traveled," I've been thinking about that Robert Frost ponderable, which made me want to see the film. Plus who doesn't want to know what happens when someone goes after their unfulfilled childhood love?
Film stills taken from Dani Menkin's Facebook page -- thanks!
So with that much foresight and that little notice (an hour or two all told), we found ourselves at the festival in a mostly-full theatre watching what turns out to be an excellent film. How many movies cause one to laugh and to cry and to want to reach into the screen and help the characters? That's this film.
There's the brash brother of Ronnie, the main character, confidently played by Alon Aboutboul who's come to the US and now owns a used car lot, a tech-savvy son who although he barely speaks Hebrew wants to join the Israeli Army (possibly the elite Special Forces but the reference was over my head), a zany free-spirit filmmaker (the thoroughly engaging actor, Naruna Kaplan de Macedo), making a film about, guess what, "the road not taken," who joins Ronnie's search for his lost love, a cop who sings opera for the evolving documentary, a grandmother who smokes medicinal pot, and a retinue of cameos from regular folks, albeit colorful ones, who talk about their alternative roads.
Eventually, Ronnie finds Rachel (Suzanne Sadler), whose warmth and quiet charisma explain both why he was so taken with her initially and why we, watching the film, would want to know her. Her interview about other roads is profound. There are many untaken roads, she tells us, not one, and remaining alert to the ones we're on is the trick. Or something like that -- I need the script to be accurate here and it's worth seeing the film just to hear what she has to say.
Films within films, like novels within novels, are tricky and can be just one large heap of hoke but this one is not and an unexpected plot twist leads to double-take time: Is this a documentary after all? It's not but it's so well done that one could leave the theatre feeling as one (this one) did after reading Tomas Eloy Martinez's novel, Santa Evita, where he included so many footnotes that it was nearly impossible to tell whether it was fiction or fact.
OK, so all of that was great but then the kicker: The filmmaker, Dani Menkin, was there after the film to answer questions. Charming and forthcoming, he took questions from the audience, explained that the film was filmed principally in Syracuse (where an article appeared about the movie's production in 2012), and reinforced the mystery of distribution. How does such an excellent film go into wide release? Who knows what slender strands cause such things to happen but, as we left the theatre, I remembered that someone I went to high school with is now a producer and so I test the power of Google Alerts and mention Andy Scheinman, whose great sense of humor I recall, and whom I think would like this film very much.