“Fill the Void,” a compelling and skillfully made domestic drama, is a rarity, a film that’s both set within, and emerges from, a devoutly religious world. Writer-director Rama Burshtein’s debut feature takes place in the ultraorthodox Haredi community of Tel Aviv, of which she is a member.
The movie is about marriage and the dilemmas it poses for 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron), the youngest daughter of a rabbi (Chaim Sharir). In this milieu, marriages are not arranged, strictly speaking, but parents suggest matches, to which the prospective couple must agree.
A promising young man has been found for Shira, and as the movie opens she is being taken to a supermarket by her mother (Irit Sheleg) to catch a glimpse of him. This happy time ends abruptly when Shira’s sister dies giving birth, leaving a devastated widower, Yochay (Yiftach Klein), with a newborn son.
Worried that Yochay might leave the country to remarry, the mother comes up with the startling solution of pairing him up with Shira. Yochay is a good man, if slightly older than she, and an appealing match, but Shira is taken aback by the notion of marrying her brother-in-law.
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The rest of the film, highlighted by some nicely done dialogue scenes between Shira and Yochay, focus on her internal struggles.
The film does an outstanding job of immersing us in a society that’s significantly closed off from the modern world. Much of the movie unfolds inside the characters’ homes.
There also is good soft-focus cinematography from Asaf Sudry, and the major roles are well performed. Especially noteworthy is Yaron, who won the best-actress award at the 2012 Venice Film Festival for her work here.