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Eyes Wide Open

  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars
Matters of the heart, flesh and mind conflict in this thoughtful, tense and saddening study of lust and repression among Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Jews, a community presented by talented young Israeli director Haim Tabakman as an enclosed and self-regulating bubble. Aaron (Zohar Strauss), a shy butcher, husband and father in his late thirties, reopens his business after his father’s death and accepts Ezri (Ran Danker), a secretive religious student, as an apprentice after the younger man wanders into his shop, reeling from his own, mysterious troubles.

Aaron’s nervous wranglings with scriptural doctrine at local prayer meetings suggest a man ill at ease with himself, while back at the shop Aaron teaches Ezri his trade, lets him sleep in the back room, invites him for meals with his wife and kids and gradually becomes closer to him, much to the dismay of his peers who suggest that he should have nothing to do with the outsider and seem to suspect what we know: that Aaron and Ezri are in a sexual relationship.

Tabakman’s debut film is a grind at first. Why are we observing these men in this dull shop in this oppressive corner of Jerusalem? What, to be frank, is going on? But as the risk builds, ‘Eyes Wide Open’ becomes a gripping tale of a man fighting with himself, his community and religion. Tabakman is excellent at capturing both the increasing claustrophobia of the situation and Aaron’s apparent obliviousness (the oblivion of love?) to what’s going on around him, not least with a brilliant shot that captures in the window of a minibus the reflection of a crowd outside Aaron’s shop.

Slow and often silent, it’s an extraordinarily disciplined film (the photography alone is impressively careful and controlled) that respects, if not honours, the milieu of its story by accepting that liberation has bounds and that leaving it all behind – breaking free – is the stuff of movies, not life.
Written by Dave Calhoun

Release Details

  • Rated:12A
  • Release date:Friday 14 May 2010
  • Duration:91 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Haim Tabakman
  • Screenwriter:Haim Tabakman
  • Cast:
    • Zohar Strauss
    • Ran Danker
    • Tzahi Grad
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