Alex (Pio Marmai) is 27, and is living a life he seems to have happened upon. He deals drugs for a living, but his main occupation seems to be bailing his older brother out of jams - primarily by financial help, but also physically. Alex, despite his occupation is very likable, but he seems lonely and lost. His brother Isaac (Cedric Kahn) is a different story. Isaac is ignorant, demanding and self-centred and self serving. He is sure his brother will bail him out every time. And Alex does. Until he sees a glimpse of opportunity. His cousin is opening a restaurant in Tel Aviv. Alex envisions himself leaving Paris, escaping his brother and starting a new life. Will he seize the opportunity or will Isaac stop him? How will he finance his trip? And can he make 'aliyah' - the declarations and knowledge necessary for Jews to immigrate or return to Israel. Perhaps he should stay - could Jeanne (Adele Haenel), a woman he meets at his cousin's party, be the basis of a fresh life in Paris?
Pio does a fantastic job with the character of Alex. His criminal activities are not what we see first - instead it is a young man on repeat cycle - tied to his older brother . Where do the ties of familial responsibility end? I found myself constantly talking to the screen as I watched Aliyah - telling Alex to walk away from his brother and claim his life. Pio plays Alex with a studied blank face for much of the film. But when he smiles or laughs, you get a glimpse the person he keeps under control and the man he could become. As much as I disliked the character of Isaac, I have to say that Khan played him magnificently. I wasn't sure of Jeanne's motives at first; she seemed to enjoy toying with Alex. Their scene in the café was revealing, but still guarded, as both characters were only able to articulate their feelings through a third person view.
Wajeman plays with white back lighting in many of the scenes, giving the shot (and usually Alex) a stark, blinding moment. Music is used to great effect and I found myself humming along with the song Sugar Man by Rodrigues after the movie ended.
In Aliyah, Wajeman explores familial and cultural ties and obligations juxtaposed with an individual's need to find a sense of belonging on their own terms.
The ending caught me unawares and indeed, I did rewind to make sure I hadn't missed anything. At first I was disappointed and wanted a more clear cut resolution, but then thought about it again. And realized that yes, the ending was fitting. Another great film brought to North America by Film Movement.
Film Movement always includes a short film with their features. On the Road to Tel-Aviv is a fifteen minute short based on actual events. An Arab woman boards a bus. In the wake of recent events, the rest of the passengers disembark and demand that the driver 'do something'. The situation escalates as the driver tries to cope....