Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Other Son

The Other Son opens with Joseph preparing for his compulsory military service in the Israeli Defence Force, when a doctor notices that his blood type is incompatible with his parents. It turns out that he was switched as a baby when his Palestinian mother gave birth while visiting Israel. Babies switched at birth is such a well worn plot device or trope that I half expect that characters are going to break the fourth wall to complain about it. While both families find a host of things to get upset about but script writer isn't one of them.

The story unfolds in a remarkably restrained and laid back way. This is partly because some key parts of the story happen off screen. The two families are initially brought together by the hospital when it apologies for its mistake. They find that there is a common link to France: the Jewish parents are first and second generation immigrants from France and their Palestinian brought up son has just past his baccalaureate and is about to start studying medicine in Paris. When Joseph meets Yacine the easy going Yacine teaches the more uptight Joseph how to sell ice-cream to girls on the beach. The contrasts between the two ways of life, the economic gap, the difference between being on equal terms with the soldiers verses being subject to their whims are all on show but none of it leads to any serious problems.

This is a carefully constructed film is designed to challenge ideas of genetic ethnicity and identity. While the film maker has a clear idea about that it doesn't ram them down your throat. The question of whether parents and children feel more strongly about their biological offspring or parents than they do about the relationship developed over 18 years of child rearing is raised but is not the main point of the film.

Ian's rating 3.5/5, Anne's rating 4/5

Interview with the director Lorraine Lévy.

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