Doubtful

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Doubtful
"Dramatically powerful and thematically challenging, this is a remarkably impressive feature début."

Over the years, the Eye For Film team has visited a number of projects using film and the arts more widely to reach out to young people facing difficult circumstances, like Edinburgh's Pilton Video. They can change lives, and sometimes their work succeeds in breaking through to mainstream audiences - like Wasted Time by Shooter Films in Glasgow - helping viewers to get an unsanitised glimpse of what their lives are like. Doubtful features young actors whose only experience comes from working in a group like this. Their own backgrounds are similar to those of their characters, and the story they tell - at times inspiring, at times heartbreaking - is based on true events.

Ran Danker plays Assi, a thirtysomething writer and poet who is drifting through life when a motorbike accident snaps him back into the real world. Sentenced to community service, he finds himself working with young people with histories of delinquency and violent crime. They're stubborn and resentful to begin with, wary of adults with saviour complexes, but gradually his use of language and introduction of provocative philosophical questions captures their interest. As the barriers between them begin to break down, he finds himself growing particularly close to one youth, Eden (Adar Hazazi Gersch), whose mother seems to have a crush on him. Their acquaintance persists after the community service is over, but Assi will have some hard lessons to learn about the importance of professional distance and how much harder it can be to help somebody who has become a part of one's own life.

Copy picture

Though at times it seem perilously close to the simplistic feelgood narratives of the likes of Dead Poets Society, this is a far smarter film, and sentiment is as dangerous a temptation to the viewer as it is to Assi. It also has a very different tone. The performances are raw and natural, the young cast drawing on their own experiences to show us anger and frustration they can easily relate to. Their emotional turbulence means that the mood can change in an instant, shifting from good humoured camaraderie to aggression and spite; they are constantly on the defensive, expecting the worst from each other and especially from adults. Even as Assi rails against the low expectations of those supervising their detention, he tells his girlfriend that he works with disabled young people, bending the truth to make it sound more socially acceptable.

Dramatically powerful and thematically challenging, this is a remarkably impressive feature début. Director Eliran Elya shows real assurance behind the camera and Arik Leibovitch's editing makes the events we see feel completely spontaneous. Gersch stands out as he shows us Eden opening up, making us root for him despite his ongoing hostility and unpredictability. Doubtful is intelligent and deliberately uncomfortable, and it presents an uncompromising picture of the consequences of social exclusion.

Reviewed on: 08 Jun 2018
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Doubtful packshot
When a screenwriter is sentenced to community service, he finds his work with juvenile offenders offers him an unexpected outlet.

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Istanbul 2018

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