The yawning divisions between secular and religious Jewish Israelis run deep and may even be unbridgeable. This unsettling schism manifests itself in practically every nook and cranny of Israeli life, as Avi Nesher suggests in his newest movie, The Other Story, which is now available on the ChaiFlicks streaming platform.
The film is centered around two women — Anat (Joy Rieger), a secular Israeli who finds peace and comfort in ultra-Orthodox Judaism, and Sari (Avigail Alter), a religiously pious mother who turns away from her rigid faith and draws sustenance from membership in a strange cult.
They’re both strong people who have latched on to something they think is appealing and enduring, much to the distress of their respective families.
Anat, the central character in this intense and reflective film, has gone through a process of renewal after connecting with religion. In effect, she has submitted herself to a spiritual makeover. The strictly segregated seminary in Jerusalem that she attends reinforces her new-found attitudes and beliefs.
Her fiancé, Shachar (Nathan Goshen), has travelled along the same road. A musician and a singer, he has joined a haredi sect and studies at a yeshiva. He and Anat plan to marry and live their lives as ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Anat’s new lifestyle disconcerts her divorced parents, Tali (Maya Dagan), an entrepreneur, and Yonatan (Yuval Segal), a businessman in the high-tech sector who emigrated from Israel years ago. Anat’s staunchly secular grandfather, Shlomo Abadi (Sasson Gabbai), a practising psychologist, is also upset with her. They categorically reject the values of the ultra-Orthodox world and cannot understand why Anat is so attracted to it.
Just as importantly, they’re opposed to Anat’s impending marriage to Shachar, and discuss ways to derail it. Having learned that Shachar is still addicted to drugs, Yonatan confronts him, hoping he will divulge the full truth about himself to Anat.
Yonatan is at a disadvantage, inasmuch as Anat bitterly resents him. After leaving Israel for greener pastures in the United States, he rarely kept in touch with Anat, causing a toxic father-daughter rift that still persists.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that Yonatan has become embroiled in a lawsuit that could bankrupt him and his partner in the U.S.
Shlomo’s patient, Sari, is quite a handful. She and her husband, Rami (Maayan Bloom), a tour guide, are enmeshed in an acrimonious custody battle over their young son, Izzy. Rami, in particular, is offended by Sari’s affiliation with a bizarre cult that engages in primitive rituals and encourages the full liberation of women.
Sari’s fraught relationship with Rami is exacerbated by his decision to “kidnap” Izzy and shelter in a local convent. Suspicious of Rami’s motives, she calls the police, inadvertently worsening their dispute.
The Other Story unfolds seamlessly and, thanks to a plausible script, able direction and fine performances from a credible cast, it succeeds in engaging a viewer. Its denouement may be a tad too pat, but on the positive side, it fearlessly deals with an internal problem that roils Israel to this day.