July 30, 2020  (Web Review)

Shoelaces

Kino Lorber, 103 min., in Hebrew w/English subtitles, not rated, DVD: $19.95, Blu-ray: $29.95, May 12

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

The ties of a family in times of domestic tragedy are dramatized in Jacob Goldwasser’s poignant comedy-drama, which might be described as an Israeli version of Rain Man. Dov Glickman stars as Reuven, the gruff owner of a Jerusalem garage who receives a phone call informing him that his ex-wife has been killed in a traffic accident. Excerpt for monetary support for their son Gadi (Nevo Kimchi), who was born with special needs, Reuven has had no contact with her—or the boy—for decades, but now he is the only person who can serve as the young man’s guardian. He reluctantly agrees to do so temporarily, until a spot can be arranged for his son in a suitable facility. It is inevitable that the two will bond, although Reuven has trouble with the young man’s peculiarities—his insistence on eating lunch at a precise time each day (even if it means stopping a carwash, the job Reuven gives Gadi at the garage, abruptly in the middle) and on having his food served without any item touching another on his plate, or his demand for foot massages at bedtime. In time, however, Reuven decides that he wants to offer Gadi a permanent home. There is, however, a major problem: Reuven suffers from kidney disease, and since dialysis is no longer effective, he requires a transplant. When his brother shows no inclination to be a donor, Gadi volunteers. But the medical bureaucracy intervenes since there is some suspicion—not entirely without reason—that Reuven has reversed himself about taking Gadi in just to secure the kidney he so desperately needs. Whether the opposition to the transplant can be overcome in time to save Reuven becomes the central issue of the film’s last act. There are other characters in Shoelaces—a social worker who convinces Reuven to become Gadi’s guardian and then works to secure a place for him in a progressive group home, a woman Reuven has been dating, a young waitress who sees Reuven as a paternal figure—but the film is essentially a two-hander, dependent for its success on Glickman and Kimchi. Both give formidable performances. Glickman manages the transition from curmudgeonly to loving with a veteran’s expertise, and while one might consider Kimchi’s turn too flamboyant—a criticism also leveled by some against Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man—he conveys the essential goodness of the young man despite Gadi’s occasional brash outbursts. This is a sensitive, touching portrait of a father reconnecting late in life with a son who is as special as his needs. The only extra is a selection of trailers, including one for the present film. Recommended. (F. Swietek)