Omri Givon’s Seven Minutes in Heaven works on two diametrically opposed levels, the real and the hallucinatory.
To be presented by the Toronto Jewish Film Society on Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Al Green Theatre (750 Spadina Avenue), this psychological drama from Israel blends terrorism, trauma and romance.
A year after a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up the bus in which she and her boyfriend were riding, Galia (Reymond Amsalem), a single woman living in Jerusalem, still feels the mental and physical effects of that horrific incident.
Torn by anguish and guilt over her boyfriend’s horrible death, Galia can barely cope with the burn injury on her back that still torments her.
Amid her pain and suffering, Galia is trying to piece together exactly what happened. In particular, she wants to know the name of the paramedic who saved her life and the person who sent back the necklace she wore on that fateful day.
As she struggles with these traumatic events in an attempt to reclaim her life, she meets Boaz (Eldad Fribas), a kind, sensitive and empathetic soul who tries to help her through her troubles. The question that looms large is whether a platonic friendship can bloom into a romantic relationship.
Seven Minutes in Heaven moves between the present and the past, and sometimes a viewer may struggle to identify the precise time period. But that’s the point of this film, which oscillates between fantasy and reality and reflects Galia’s partial memory loss.
Givon is especially effective in conveying a range of emotions, from Galia’s response to medical treatment to Boaz’s overtures to Galia. And he succeeds in recreating the mood of an embattled nation facing the constant threat of random terrorism.
The title of the film is apt, a reference to the precious few minutes the paramedic had to administer first aid to Galia when she was clinically dead.
Some of the most graphic scenes unfold in the moments right after the bus bombing, when frenetic rescue personnel scour the site for survivors and victims.
Another piercing scene takes place at the very beginning of the film, when a distraught Galia hovers over the hospital bed where her boyfriend lies dying of his terrible injuries.
Amsalem’s portrayal of a woman on the cusp of despair is impressive. At once withdrawn and animated, she strikes a proper balance between grief and a zest for living. As Boaz, Fribas conveys compassion and strength.
Seven Minutes in Heaven, gritty yet sophisticated, brings us closer to understanding how Israelis deal with a situation that North Americans can barely comprehend.