“A man is always on trial,” intones a solemn rabbi in Gett, one of the film’s few out-and-out ironic laughs. Most of the time, though, you’ll be quaking with rage. It’s not a man but Late Marriage’s soulful Ronit Elkabetz (also cowriter and director with her brother Shlomi) who stands before a trio of male judges, petitioning the court and her infuriatingly stubborn husband for what’s commonly known as a divorce. In Israel’s current legal system, though, ruled by ancient custom, such requests take on the pie-in-the-sky likelihood of asking Bono for world peace.
We start in a white room as lawyers and representatives discuss the matter; it’s minutes before the camera gets around to our seething heroine, Viviane (Elkabetz), a sly piece of visual diminishment. But Gett truly picks up emotional steam once you realize that we’re never going to leave that room, even as the months pass and we hear every kind of banal waffling and excuse intended to extend the process into a multiyear saga that would sap the most devoted bureaucrat. The acting, especially from Menashe Noy as an ineffectual attorney, is phenomenal, resulting in a feminist knockout told in inverse.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf