“LONGING”— Becoming a Father

Longing” Becoming a Father Amos Lassen Biologically most men  can become fathers but becoming a real father takes more than the sex act as we see in “Longing”, an acute and fascinating reflection on paternity and how to smile in the face of death from Israeli director Savi Gabizon. It is a paradox to becoming a father when your son is gone but that is what happens here. We look at a man’s role as a parent, his fear of becoming one, selfishness, his ability to open up to the world and to rediscover it and learning to look beyond self. Shai Avivi,  one of Israel’s best-known comic actors plays the part of Ariel, a sore, vain and disgruntled man whose life is turned upside down by a news that threatens to question his entire life until now. He is summoned to a bar by  Ronit (Asi Levi), his college girlfriend, whom he has not seen for 20 years. The conversation between Ariel and Ronit, who begins with a smile but becomes increasingly tense after revealing the true reason for their meeting: 20 years ago, Ronit gave birth to their son, whom Ariel never met, and whom he will never know as he recently died in an accident. After never wanting to have children, Ariel finds himself face to face with a missed opportunity.
Ariel sets out on a path of discovery in which he must piece together his ghostly son’s personality bit by bit, in all its entirety. He learns this in small doses through the conversations that the man has with those who were close to the boy: his fiancée, his best friend, but in particular, Yael (Neta Riskin), the young teacher he was madly in love with and the main source of his son’s torment and the subject of his poignant poems. Ariel begins to take on the role of a parent, jumping to his son’s defense when necessary, talking about him as if he knew him, and trying to resolve unanswered questions. There are some rather interesting and bizarre situations during the film that provoke a smile or two and prepares us for a lighter second half of the film when Ariel decides to arrange a wedding between his lost son and a missing girl. A marriage between the young and deceased which, according to a Middle Eastern tradition, is a means of guaranteeing the deceased a better afterlife. This is an almost impossible mission, but one in which the father finds a way of finally doing something for his son.  Ariel will never be able to answer the question of “What sort of father he would have been?” but through his journey from solitude and individualism to sharing, Ariel overcomes his traumas and will at least learn something about himself and heal a bit along the way. This is a well-measured and sensitive story about a somewhat bizarre second chance, which has the ability to improve life by smiling in the face of death.  We get aunique take on parenthood, on love, on mourning and on a few other very mundaneissues plus an excellent performances from Shai Avivi, and from Asi Levy. Everything about this film is excellent.

The screenplay (which won the so-called Israeli Oscar, the Ophir award) is alittle like a detective story. A father’s inquiries about the dead son he nevermet reveal surprise after. Certainly the father develops a “longing” forhis son.

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