‘Fill the Void’ delves into an Orthodox romance (of sorts)

Yiftach Klein plays an Orthodox widower considering marriage with Hadas Yaron (background) in "Fill the Void." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
Yiftach Klein plays an Orthodox widower considering marriage with Hadas Yaron (background) in “Fill the Void.”
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

‘Fill the Void’
Director: Rama Buhrstein
Stars: Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein
Rating: PG
3 (out of 5) Globes

Religious films have acquired a bad reputation over the years, primarily because the few making them tend to favor moralistic kitsch. (See: The films of Kirk Cameron.) Filmmaker Rama Burshtein is a native New Yorker who, while studying in Jerusalem in her twenties, became increasingly devout. “Fill the Void,” her feature debut, was made in the Orthodox Haredi subculture of Tel Aviv. While some of the actions taken by its female lead, an 18 year old suddenly thrust into marital strife, may seem regressive to audiences outside the faith, it’s the right kind of religious film, which is to say one that grapples with its issues even as it wholeheartedly embraces it.

Hadas Yaron plays Shira, the teenage daughter of a rabbi first seen spying on, and expressing dissatisfaction with, the gawky man to whom she’s betrothed. When her sister suddenly dies in childbirth, she finds herself confronted with another option. Her mother (Irit Shelag) doesn’t want to lose connection with her grandchild, and suggests her daughter’s brooding widower, Yohai (Yiftach Klein), pair off instead with Shira. Neither is excited about betraying the deceased, but sparks, albeit quiet and respectful ones, ensue.

Jane Austen is the cross-reference here, particularly given the fiery emotions that are forced to navigate through a dense latticework of ritual and tradition. It’s not a film critical of the Orthodox way, but it is one that acknowledges how difficult it is on human emotions. There’s no easy answer for the situation in the film, and no solution that will placate every character. Shira soon grows warmer to the idea of marrying Yohai, but it’s possible she’s mostly motivated — at 18 — by the fear of becoming the spinster/family friend, who hides her hair only so no one will pester her about life choices.

Burshtein’s characters prove more willing to play by Orthodox rules than many of its viewers would be. That makes the ending all the more of a shock. “Fill the Void” pulls a trick from “The Graduate” and “The Candidate,” abruptly questioning whether everything the characters have worked to become cool with was worth it. Directorially, it’s a heavy film, shot with long lenses that create a shallow depth of field. At its most excessive, only part of one character’s face will be completely in focus. Its style mirrors characters both burdened by their faith and passionate about making it work.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Deron Williams leads Nets over Raptors in Game…

The Nets traveled to a raucous Air Canada Centre but came out with an important Game 1 victory over the Raptors.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.