Reviewed by: Sarah Artt

Eli (Amir Wolf) has been referred to Hagar (Lana Etinger) by his therapist for his problems with intimacy, which are never fully articulated, but we can see that a range of actions cause him discomfort - from being embraced by a family member to sexual intercourse. As a surrogate, Hagar functions as an alternate partner who helps patients overcome their anxiety with physical intimacy, particularly when it involves sexual intercourse.

Part of Eli's intense embarrassment seems to stem from his predominantly female family - his affectionate mother, sister and a large circle of their friends - one gets the sense there would not have been much privacy for an only boy in such a boisterous female household. Eli is therefore nervous for his nephew, now surrounded by all these women.

Copy picture

In his sessions with Hagar, he describes a woman's touch as “annoying” but Hagar gently accustoms him to the kind of intimate touching that lovers engage in unconsciously. Hagar patiently opens herself to him, allowing Eli to experience real pleasure and intimacy apart from his family. Yet he often draws back from allowing these feelings to wash over him, disengaging by quizzing Hagar about her own life or attempting to judge her profession, treating it like prostitution. As Eli begins to accept and discover his body, he begins to come to terms with past events that have contributed to his behaviour as an adult.

The topic of Eli's childhood, his family and even his relationship with his nephew is handled with great delicacy and we are never offered clear cut answers as to why Eli has encountered these problems, learning only that he is now trying to confront his past and move on.

There are sensitive and alluring performances from both Etinger and Wolf. Both actors possess the kind of large, expressive eyes that make their silence or quiet movement on screen as compelling as their verbal interactions. The scenes with Eli and his family are perfectly played to convey Eli's discomfort, and then his growing ease with physical intimacy - particularly when he finds he is finally able to embrace his nephew. His close relationship with his sister is also subtly conveyed - his sister clearly knows more about his difficulties than anyone else, as evidenced by the fact he asks her to recite an incredibly filthy limerick down the phone - an action that soothes and calms his anxiety. A stunning argument for what the French call the moyen métrage, Surrogate is a perfectly executed short feature. At 57 minutes, it is spare and elegant.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2009
Share this with others on...
The relationship between a troubled man and the woman who gives him sexual therapy.
Amazon link

Read more Surrogate reviews:

Chris **1/2

Director: Tali Shalom-Ezer

Writer: Tali Shalom-Ezer

Starring: Amir Wolf, Lana Ettinger, Rosina Kambus, Yonatan Swirski, Liat Glick, Lascha Shimshoni

Year: 2008

Runtime: 57 minutes

Country: Israel


EIFF 2009

Search database: