Sebastian Lelio's "Disobedience" shows a generosity of spirit toward its three central characters; as with all good movies, it ends with you wondering what happens to the characters afterward. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
Movies have brought us many love triangles, but I can’t remember another quite like the one in Sebastián Lelio’s “Disobedience.” Rachel Weisz plays Ronit, a New York photographer summoned to her former home in a conservative Orthodox community in London after the death of her rabbi father (Anton Lesser). Greeted coolly by her family and former neighbors, she takes refuge at the home of a childhood friend, Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and is surprised to find that he is married to their friend Esti (Rachel McAdams), with whom Ronit was once in love — a relationship which, years ago, led to Ronit’s shunning and departure.
These plot points aren’t told to us flatly, but shown to us, in careful details: the way Ronit buttons up her cardigan as she approaches Dovid’s home, how he pulls back when she moves to embrace him (“I’m sorry, I forgot,” she says), the awkwardness of the threesome in Dovid and Esti’s home, in quiet rooms where you can smell the cleanness. This is Lelio’s first English-language film (his most recent was the Academy Award-winning “A Fantastic Woman”), and it’s remarkable how much of “Disobedience” is told without words. Weisz and McAdams, in particular, have a way of gazing at each other that tells stories; these women have an electric connection, all the more so for being mostly folded up and put away.
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“Disobedience” unfolds quietly but passionately, with a generosity of spirit toward its three central characters. Dovid isn’t a villain, but a man trying to be a supportive friend, within the confines of a disapproving community. Esti and Ronit’s love is forbidden, at least in the eyes of those around them, but nonetheless it simmers. As with all good movies, it ends with you wondering what happens to the characters afterward; their story seems like it’s continuing, somewhere.
★★★½ “Disobedience,” with Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Allan Corduner, Anton Lesser. Directed by Sebastián Lelio, from a screenplay by Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz, based on the novel by Naomi Alderman. 114 minutes. Rated R for some strong sexuality. Multiple theaters.