Critic Consensus: Disobedience explores a variety of thought-provoking themes, bolstered by gripping work from leads Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, and Alessandro Nivola.
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Critic Reviews for Disobedience
Ronit is rebellious, Esti is repressed-two points that Disobedience repeats over and over until the dynamic starts to feel caricatured.
A beautifully crafted tale that will make your heart ache, thanks to two standout leading performances and a great supporting one.
Lelio and the actors tell the story through fraught silences and meaningful glances, with Weisz and McAdams movingly conveying the feeling of being lost - and found - together.
Lelio's subdued approach to the material robs it of potential emotional power but also keeps the story grounded.
Lelio's film is about more than sex, or its perhaps easy ability to shock. It is a love story, as beautiful as it is devastating.
Audience Reviews for Disobedience
With this kind of star power, I could foresee Jewish lesbian romance genre film taking off in a big way. We aren't talking Blue is the Warmest Color levels of explicit erotic entertainment, but one could easily expect to see an uptick in Pornhub's search trends for the lead actresses' titillating scenes that lie herein. Yes, you get to see Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams break kosher without a sheet, but just like similar forbidden love stories like Brokeback Mountain, Carol, or Howard the Duck, the movie is much more than the sum of its private parts. Set in a very insular Orthodox Jewish community in London, Ronit (Weisz) returns to mourn the passing of her father, one of the most prominent Rabbis of her childhood home. As in many cases, her traditionalist extended family and the people that surrounded her father are all a bit shocked and perturbed by her arrival after she had made a clean break from her upbringing and culture years before. Her mere presence is insulting to some and welcomed by those who cared the most for her, namely Esti (McAdams), a former love interest who has married straight despite her homosexual leanings. Many awkward pauses and loaded looks ensue. Director Sebastian Lelio is no stranger to the clash between alternate lifestyles and how they play out in conservative family dynamics. After winning Best Foreign Picture at the Oscars last year for A Fantastic Woman, this seems a perfectly serviceable next step. Considering Lelio's Chilean (and presumably Catholic) background, the director does a fantastic job of inhabiting the liturgy and community of a culture and religion he hasn't lived within. Doubly surprising is how in both this and A Fantastic Woman he can help bring to life characters who do not fit into rigid social constructs and portray them in a tasteful, multifaceted way. Conceivably, one could place this story in the context of any other religious group. Aside from the candlesticks and hats, this could be a Mormon, Amish, or Southern Baptist group and they probably wouldn't miss a beat seeing as how most of the prevailing tenets of those faiths are predicated on a tradition that assumes it has what is best for family and culture yet fails to account for the ways of the world and how the moral zeitgeist shifts. You can't really pick up a book and prescribe to everyone a behavior set that goes against their basic biology, but when all you know, see, and have is structured around that book, is there really any free will for HaShem to judge you by?
SHEBREWS - My Review of DISOBEDIENCE (2 1/2 Stars) Chilean-born writer/director Sebastián Lelio won the Oscar this year for Foreign Language Film with A FANTASTIC WOMAN. His follow-up, DISOBEDIENCE, co-written by the brilliant Rebecca Lenkiewicz (IDA) based on the novel by Naomi Alderman, has pedigree to spare and a talented cast at the top of their game, but it won't win any Oscars and while somewhat absorbing and well-intentioned, comes across as a disjointed, flat, long slog. Set in the Orthodox Jewish community of London, the film tells the story of successful photographer Ronit (Rachel Weisz), a prodigal daughter returning from New York for her Rabbi father's funeral. Her boozy, bender of a lifestyle contrasts sharply with the people she reconnects with upon her return. It's apparent right away that Ronit wears the "Outcast" label, but unless you've studied the movie poster or saw the trailer, it's not clear why just yet. Straight from the airport, she lands on the doorstep of childhood friends Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), next in line for the Rabbi position, and his wife Esti (Rachel McAdams), who wears the wig and adheres to the strict rules of a woman in this religious environment. The tension between the three slowly bears out the fact that Ronit and Esti have been in love with each other in the past. How Ronit, Esti and David navigate this complicated love triangle and reconcile their actions and feelings with their faith (or lack thereof) constitutes the overall story of the film. It's a tale worth telling, and I cannot find fault with the three leads. Weisz commands attention just by smoking a cigarette or taking on a community (especially during a tense dinner scene) who struggle offering her a place in their world. Nivola has an impressive stillness to his performance, slowly revealing depth, warmth, and yet the air of entitlement men feel when they hold all the cards. At times he gave me Mandy Patinkin in YENTL vibes. Most of all, McAdams delivers a stunning, brutal performance as a woman who aims to please everyone around her but herself. Her scenes with Weisz crackle with repressed sexual tension especially an honest, raw sex scene, yet you also understand why she's drawn to her husband, who often leads with a direct and tender kindness. It's rich complicated stuff, but it's all in service of an overly long, maudlin, listless flatline of a film. What should be riveting feels like a General Foods International Coffee commercial, with its endlessly shallow depth of field cinematography by Danny Cohen (LES MISERABLES, THE KING'S SPEECH, ROOM), who has built a recent resume around films with too many close-ups. He knows how to create pretty images, but man, pull back every now and then, please! Despite its excessive running time, I also found the storytelling to be disjointed at best. It took a while to sort out how the three principals knew each other, and certain sections felt like they were missing scenes that would have better clarified things a bit better. It's ridiculously extended final act, in particular, kept going and going, with one annoying scene after another, searching for and eventually finding an appropriate ending. I couldn't wait for it to end, yet I still appreciate its exploration of a little seen world, and one presented with such committed performances. All told, I'm gonna quote my late Jewish grandmother with her one word critique of all things she disliked: "Feh!"
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