A lugubrious film of bleakness and ennui, based on the 2002 autobiographical novel by renown Israeli writer Amos Oz (aka Klausner, 1939). Natalie Portman directs, adapts and stars as Oz’s clinically depressed mother Fania (1913-1951), and her march towards extinction. The location is Jerusalem, 1947.
Told through the wizened eyes of an elderly Oz (understand why it took him a lifetime to address his mother’s illness, demise and its effects on his childhood), we witness Fania’s obsessive love for her son (Amin Tessler); she weaves remarkable fictional stories, metaphors for life’s experiences; as a Jew, she and her family fled a privileged existence in Poland, escaping Hitler’s apocalyptic decrees. Amos, out of necessity, becomes the caretaker for his non-communicative parents.
Portman’s empathy for Amos Oz is poignantly clear, but the movie fails on so many levels: minimal script, plodding scenario, infused with pained expressions and a snail’s pace; ninety-nine minutes seemed like ninety-nine days. Possibly a platform for Portman’s acuity with the Hebrew language?
Unfortunately, “A Tale of Love and Darkness” diminishes a powerful, painful, beautifully written book by a master, who with hindsight, analyzes and accepts his mother’s decision.
ONE & 1/2 STARS!