1 1/2 (out of 4)
Sebastián Lelio is currently reimagining his critically acclaimed 2013 film Gloria with Julianne Moore, but Disobedience is the young Chilean director's first real foray into English language features following his very recent Oscar-winning film A Fantastic Woman. However, none of the Lelio's capacity for communicating visual poetry or graciously depicting femininity and empathy as he showcased in last year's Best Foreign Language Film carries over to his latest work.
Covering the reunion between two curious females who have been parted since they were teenagers decades earlier, the film's focus is to contrast a secretive lesbian affair between Ronit (Rachel Weisz) and Esti (Rachel McAdams) with the austere Jewish Orthodoxy of which the latter of the two women is bound by marriage. Weisz (who doesn't need to change accents with the London setting) acts circles around her much less capable co-star. McAdams fakes it all the way, turning in a performance that would fit better in a well-funded porno. Respectable actors in the supporting cast like Alessandro Nivola are stifled by the overwrought triteness of Disobedience's subject.
I admire each Rachel in their respective element, but there's not really room to breathe let alone emote properly when boxed in by atypical LGBT movie trappings. Hardly even worth comparing to vastly superior recent films like Blue Is the Warmest Colour and Carol, Lelio's sensibilities in screenwriting rival that of the average paperback novel. Unless you've got a fetish for good-looking actresses dribbling into each other's mouths (not sure I could blame you), Disobedience will leave you with very little.
Speckles of good direction and finely framed cinematography don't overcome the film's perfectly drab composition. Instead of being beautiful or brave, Disobedience is ultimately bland and banal. The film barely goes beyond the basics of its erotic love story amidst oppressive, unfeeling institutions – I can't think of any audiences coming away pleased other than horny old grandmas.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
the first installment of
The Absolute State of /tv/