Nina's Tragedies

2005, Movie, NR, 110 mins


No amount of style or good acting can disguise the fact that this downbeat Israeli comedy is little more than a sudsy soap-opera with a distinctly unsavory aftertaste. Diminutive 14-year-old Nadav (Aviv Elkabets) has never had any illusion that he's anything but a disappointment to his father, Amnon (Shmil Ben-Ari); the fondest endearment Dad ever came up with is "my sweet little turd." After Amnon and Alona (Anat Waxman), Nadav's aspiring fashion-designer mother, divorce, the gap between father and son widens further. Nadav is nevertheless horrified when his school counselor finds his private journal and calls Amnon into her office to discuss its contents, including Nadav's explicit masturbatory fantasies, which center on Alona's pretty younger sister, Nina (Ayelet July Zurer), on whom Nadav spies through her bedroom window. Nadav's nascent voyeurism finds him a friend in middle-aged peeper Menahem (Dov Navon), and they troll Tel Aviv together in hopes of glimpsing women in various states of undress. The discovery of Nadav's secret journal triggers memories of the year when it seemed Nina's world was completely collapsing in the aftermath of her husband's sudden death. Nadav always resented his hot-tempered uncle Haimon (Yoram Hattav) for marrying the object of his desire, and Haimon's death in a roadside bomb blast turns out to be a double blessing: Alona asks her son to move in with his beloved aunt so she won't be entirely alone. Not only does Nadav now get to see Nina up close and personal, but he's also privy to her growing relationship with police photographer Avinoam (Alon Aboutboul). Avinoam is so besotted with Nina that he offers to leave his long-time girlfriend (Osnat Fishman) for good. Nina, however, isn't so sure, especially after the first time they have sex and she looks up to see the specter of her recently dead husband peering at her disapprovingly through the bedroom window. Opening with the image of Nadav's father lying dead on a gurney while a rabbi peels an apple, the film is surprisingly morbid for what's essentially a comedic melodrama, but the grim undercurrents aren't what make it so tiresome. Blame that on the series of credibility-straining coincidences required to pull it all together, and writer-director's Savi Gabizon's choice of a central character. There's nothing particularly endearing about a 14-year-old peeping Tom with an incestuous passion for his aunt, and Gabizon offers his audience no other option than to see the this world through his perverse little eyes. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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