Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2017; R for some strong sexuality, profanity; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNow, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: None
ADAPTED FROM a 2006 novel by Naomi Alderman, and co-written and directed by the Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio, “Disobedience” is the story of a woman’s return to the closed society from which she was banished.
Ronit (Rachel Weisz) left London and her Orthodox Jewish community, where her father was a revered rabbi, after she and another woman were caught in flagrante delicto. Now living in New York, Ronit has a successful career as a photographer and appears to be engaging in a bisexual lifestyle. When she gets word of her father’s sudden death, she flies to London to attend his funeral. There, she’s not only conspicuous in a society in which women must cover their heads with wigs and their bodies in ultra-modest clothing, but she’s crushed to read her father’s obituary claiming he had no children.
Ronit stays at the home of former close friends, Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and his wife Esti (Rachel McAdams). It was Esti with whom Ronit had been involved, and their relationship that caused Ronit’s exile. Dovid, who had been treated as a sort of protegé by Ronit’s father, was tapped by the rabbi to take his place in the synagogue and the community.
As far as Dovid is concerned, all is as it should be, and his future is set. But from the moment they see each other, it’s obvious the attraction between the two women still exists. Ronit soon learns that Esti had been coerced into marrying Dovid, and therefore she’s been living a lie. Before long, the two women are seen kissing in a park, and that scandal gets back to the Hebrew school where Esti teaches, quickly spreading to the rest of the congregation.
“Disobedience” could have easily been made as a sappy soap opera with convenient stereotypes and exaggerated good/bad guy characterizations. But in the hands of Lelio, whose 2017 film about a transsexual, “A Fantastic Woman,” won this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Film, along with co-writer playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz, “Disobedience” rises well above that genre. Granted, there are preachy moments, and others that seem less than plausible. But the humanity of the three main characters is heartfelt and sensitively acted, the message is powerful, and the outcome is rightfully ambiguous. The sex scene between Esti and Ronit, which earned the film it’s R rating, is quite bold and may shock some viewers.
This Universal Blu-ray looks excellent, given the rather dull and dark color palette used pretty much throughout the film. Details are always crisp, skin tones realistic, and contrast satisfying. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is also very good, with effects well-balanced and dialogue consistently clear. The musical score is understated, but the instances where people sing traditional or religious songs are especially resonant.
It’s disappointing there are no extras on this disc. Interviews with the director, as well as with the principal actors, would have made a great addition. Discovering how each of them researched what is, to the majority of people, a mysterious and secretive society, would have been especially fascinating.
— Peggy Earle