Movie review: 'The Other Son' powerful with its message of love, hate
Jules Sitruk, left, plays Joseph Silberg and Mehdi Dehbi is Yacine Al Bezaac -- two young men, one Israeli and one Palestinian, who discover they were accidentally switched at birth -- in "The Other Son."
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If real babies were switched at birth it would be no laughing matter, although probably a litigious one. But, with a few rare exceptions, the real or suspected scenario is usually played for comedy on TV or in the movies.
In the movie "The Other Son," it's a routine blood test that tips the dramatic dominoes.
Joseph (Jules Sitruk), an aspiring musician who lives in a Tel Aviv suburb with his parents and younger sister, undergoes a physical in preparation for his mandatory military service. When the results come back, his French-born physician mother (Emmanuelle Devos) flags a mistake in his blood type.
3 stars = Good
- Starring: Emmanuelle Devos, Jules Sitruk, Mehdi Dehbi, Pascal Elbe.
- Rating: PG-13 for a scene of violence, brief language and drug use.
Some further detective work, however, turns up a startling error: Joseph and another infant, Yacine, were accidentally swapped when the babies were evacuated during a Scud missile attack in Haifa in 1991. If that weren't complicated enough, however, aspiring doctor Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi), and his Arab family live in the West Bank.
The parents of both 18-year-olds are devastated and consider keeping the error a secret but when Joseph learns the truth, the hard questions start: "You mean I'm the other one? And the other one is me? ... I'll have to swap my kippa [or skullcap] for a suicide bomb," Joseph says, as his mother orders him to never repeat the tasteless joke.
Yacine's head spins just as much. "I'm trying to make sense of it all so I don't go under," he acknowledges, even as he suffers the sting of his older brother's insult after the families tentatively meet for the first time. "Well? Had fun with the occupying forces?"
"The Other Son" forces both families to re-examine their assumptions about the people living beyond the checkpoints, animosity bordering on hatred, religious roots and where and how everyone proceeds from here. Yacine muses, "I'm my worst enemy, but I must love myself anyway," while Joseph says, "I can't feel Jewish anymore. I don't feel Arab either. What's left?"
As you would hope, the parents' love for their sons doesn't change once they realize the biological connection is now missing from the emotional equation.
"Your father and I have loved you every second of your life," Ms. Devos' character tells Joseph, and Yacine's mother (Areen Omari) is equally devoted. Their husbands are played, respectively, by Pascal Elbe and Khalifa Natour.
"The Other Son," directed by Lorraine Levy in Israel and the West Bank with a cast from France, Palestine and Israel, gives itself one advantage. Joseph says he's never felt hatred while Yacine has been living and studying in Paris, removing him from the day-to-day slights and common-place complaints about injustice.
An act of violence from an outsider hammers home a vital message about peace and brotherhood. It may spring from unimaginable circumstances but it's a powerful one for a world weary of enmity and (sometimes literal) division.
In French, Hebrew, Arabic and English. Opens today at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill.
First Published November 2, 2012 12:00 am