“Disobedience” Is A Moving Story About Grief, Love And Longing

by Erika W. Smith


Disobedience’s buzz precedes it—it’s the “Orthodox Jewish lesbian movie” starring two famous Rachels, Weisz and McAdams, and it’s been making headlines for its intense sex scene. The reality of the movie is more nuanced.

Wesiz stars as Ronit, a photographer living in New York. She’s in the middle of taking a portrait an elderly, shirtless man covered in tattoos when the phone rings: Ronit’s estranged father, a powerful rabbi, has died. We see Ronit process the news by going to a bar, fucking a male stranger in the bathroom, going ice-skating, and tearing her shirt open. She then boards a plane and flies to Hendon, London, returning to the close-knit Orthodox Jewish community she left many years ago. Entering her father’s home, filled with members of the community who are startled and unhappy to see her, Ronit finds a friendly face in Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), her father’s pupil. The pair banter a bit before Ronit comes face-to-face with Dovid’s wife, Esti (McAdams), in a cold encounter that lets us know there’s a story there. We soon learn that Ronit and Esti share a history—Ronit’s father caught them in bed together when they were younger. In the aftermath, Ronit left the community and moved to New York. Esti stayed and married Dovid—if she has to have sex with a man, she explains, there are worse choices. But she’s still only attracted to women. Ronit, for her part, tells Esti she hasn’t been with a woman since her.

Ronit moves into Dovid and Esti’s guest room temporarily, intending to join the community in mourning her father and oversee the practical aspects of dealing with her father’s house and belongings. But Ronit and Esti find themselves growing close to each other again, slow-building to a kiss that has serious ramifications for Esti, and the aforementioned sex scene. Like director’s Sebastián Lelio’s recent movie A Fantastic Woman, Disobedience is a nuanced study of grief, with Ronit’s mourning taking just as much a focus as her and Esti’s slow-burning romance. 4 / 5

Disobedience had its US premiere at the Tribeca Film Fest on April 24 and hits theaters on April 27.

Top photo: Disobedience

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