My Daughter, My Love


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

My Daughter, My Love
"Green directs with such a sure hand that the film slides by easily – making it easy to miss its nuances if you’re not paying attention."

A gala presentation at the 2023 UK Jewish Film Festival, sees a widowed Jewish man travel to Paris to support an old friend who has suffered a heart attack. Staying with his daughter, her partner and baby, he realises that she’s deeply unhappy. At first he thinks her partner must be to blame, but the truth is more complicated and will test the depth of his love for her as well as giving him insights into his own life back in Israel.

Love is entangled with powerlessness and drama with comedy in this slight but beautifully played tale. Alma (Sivan Levy) has grown up a lot since she last saw her father, Shimon (Sasson Gabay), and although the bond between them never feels fragile, they need to renegotiate their relationship as they begin to understand each other in new ways. Her knowingly obnoxious, self-destructive behaviour seems to stem in part from a desire to establish herself as an individual and break away from his picture of who she was as a child, in combination with the panic of realising that she’s a parent now, and feeling trapped by it. Navigating a path between the two is difficult and prompts her to reach out for a wild romantic solution with little prospect of success.

As he comes to understand what’s happening, Shimon is torn between the necessity of negotiating with her as an adult, encouraging her to recognise her responsibilities, and the feeling that she’s still his little girl. He describes her intense emotions as an illness and, indeed, there are times when she seems to exhibit symptoms of manic depression. He wants to be there for her but is wary of facilitating her behaviour by becoming a convenient person on whom to dump Davidi, who is, at least, one of the world’s quietest and sleepiest babies.

Shimon also has lessons to learn; director Eitan Green intimates that, having lived in quite a gender-divided society, he never learned how to be a hands-on father. He knows the theory but is startled at being expected to put it into practice. Here he presents a stark contrast to Alma’s partner, Dori, who is smoothly balancing caring for the baby with finishing his doctorate – but may not be able to cope with Alma as well. Shimon looks to his friend, Nissim (Albert Iluz) for advice, and much of the film’s comedy stems from their banter as they sneak around the city trying to find out more.

Green directs with such a sure hand that the film slides by easily – making it easy to miss its nuances if you’re not paying attention. Additional relationships between characters on the sidelines invite viewers to look at the central issues from different angles. Evelin Hagoel brings a welcome bit of fierceness as Nissim’s wife. Shimon tries to look after his business back home over the phone, and there’s a subtext to those conversations which provides a counterpoint to Alma’s overwhelming, uncontrolled experience of love.

Masking its turbulence under a calm surface, My Daughter, My Love encourages viewers to recognise how much of what drives other people’s choices is out of sight – even when those other people are members of their own families. It’s a plea for forbearance and sympathy even towards those who seem to want neither.

Reviewed on: 18 Nov 2023
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A 70-year-old widower travels to Paris to visit a childhood friend. He stays with his daughter and discovers that her marriage is falling apart. He decides to help. In the process, he finds out that he and his daughter share both dreams and desires of which they had been previously unaware.

Director: Eitan Green

Writer: Eitan Green

Starring: Sasson Gabay, Sivan Levy, Clément Aubert

Year: 2023

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: Israel, France


Jewish 2023

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