When Israeli Michal (Noa Koler) chose to become ultra-Orthodox she soon discovered her conversion didn’t exactly make every day life easier for her especially as she wanted to get on with the next stage in her life. Now 32 years-year-old and still single and desperate to marry, Michal visits Hulda (Odelia Moreh-Matalon) an oddball sort of Jewish witch-doctor who wards off evil spirits whilst digging deep into Michal’s psyche to discover why she really is unwed. The only real good that comes out of that meeting is that she is introduced to Hulda’s son Shimi (Amos Tamam) who owns the best Wedding Hall in town, and who is told to offer Michal a good deal.
Fast forward a few months and Michal takes up Shimi’s offer, but whilst she is in his Hall having a meal tasting for her impending nuptials, her fiance casually lets slip he doesn’t actually love her. Strong-headed Michal immediately calls the wedding off but insists that Shimi keeps her reservation for the Hall as she will still get married on the arranged date. It’s just the small matter of finding a groom in the next 22 days, a task that she firmly believes that God is capable of fulfilling on time.
It’s not just the fact that Michal is insistent of making a romantic match with the one man she is destined to fall in love with, but she is much more forthright and independent than most prospective Hassidic grooms expect their future wives to be, which makes the whole process that much tougher. Michal almost exhausts the supply of candidates both of her Matchmakers keep sending and whom she rejects by the end of the date, if they have not already walked out in horror already. In desperation she takes a break to fly to Ukraine for a day to pray at the tomb of Rabbi Nacham (founder of the Breslov sect of Hasidism), and whilst the late Rabbi may not have answered her prayers directly, Yos (Oz Zehavi) a very hot looking Israeli rockstar does. Also visiting the Tomb whilst on Tour, he had overheard her lament and strikes up a conversation, and there is over obviously a spark between the two of them, even though she insists on telling him about the countdown to her rapidly approaching still groom-less wedding day.
Back home in Israel Michal’s life is taking on a very definite farcical feel. Not only does she have to deal with her skeptical religious mother, but her manic sister is one step away from getting an restraining order from her soon-to-be-ex husband whom she keeps harassing. If that is not bad enough, Michal also discovers that the fiancé that she ditched barely two weeks ago, has upped and got engaged to her own roommate. Then soon after when Yos turns up on her doorstep un-announced and offers to marry her for what appear to be all the right reasons, Michal still turns him down believing he is not God’s choice for her.
Michal an otherwise very confident and capable person (she runs her own Petting Zoo business) rationalizes what nearly everyone else in her life believes is completely as manic behavior, but her unswerving faith is still that God will deliver a groom in time but she (and we) have no idea who it will be.
This totally charming romantic comedy is the sophomore movie from the Orthodox Jewish writer/director Rama Burshtein, whose stunning debut Fill The Void deservedly swept the boards of the Israeli Oscars in 2012. Burshtein’s take on marriage this time however, whilst still enlightening us on some of the more serious Hassidic traditions and expectations, has us laughing out loud at the predicaments that such an modern and earnest bride-to-be can still get herself into.
Newcomer Koler as the protagonist is nothing less than a sheer delight and carries the movie with such a confident and enchanting performance. She is greatly helped in the role with Burshtein’s very witty script. but certainly not by the dreadful dowdy outfits that the costume designer has lumbered her with.
Whether we believe Burshtein’s take once again that marriage is still the most important thing in a woman’s life is not that essential to enjoying this old-fashioned feel-good movie, and for those people who are hopeless romantics this impassioned defence of waiting for Mr. Right, will seem like pure manna from heaven.