Menashe DVD Reviewed By Jarred Tito

The Premise
Menashe, a widower, lives and works within the Hasidic community of Borough Park, Brooklyn. Since his wife passed away a year before, he has been trying hard to regain custody of his nine-year-old son, Rieven. But the rabbi (and all the community behind him) will not hear of it unless he re-marries, which Menashe does not want, his first marriage having been very unhappy. Father and son get on well together, but can Menashe take care of Rieven properly? Not really for all his goodwill as he holds down a low-paid job as a grocery clerk that consumes too much of his efforts and energy. Always late, always in a hurry, he endeavors to improve himself though. But will his efforts be enough to convince the rabbi that he can be a good father without a wife at home?

The Review
A thorough and thoughtful film which makes a very strong case for independent film makers around the world to continue their work. I was fascinated to be privy to the background and personal lives of what some might say, are a very peculiar people. It’s in the small streets and hidden alcoves of the Big Apple (NY) that the story of “Menashe” unfolds. Quite a personal revelation that some people from tragedy-stricken families would relate to but quite possibly not in a way that you might expect.

The pace of the film is even but slow. However, its slower pace gives the movie enough time to develop the characters well. Likewise, the plot has ample time to thicken and build to a suitable dramatic climax. Each character within the film is critical and well thought-out. As the plot began to gain momentum, I became more locked into it. The individual stories within became more important and more crucial to the whole outcome.

Although you might never rate this film as a high suspense drama or a story of great wit and literature, I would certainly rate it as one of the more drama-filled and believable stories that I have seen in past years. “Menashe”, the film, makes a strong argument for the expression, ‘less is more’. I would also like to emphasise the natural reality component which is a major part of the film. Verging on documentary, this reality drama is made with an essential blend of perfect timing, simple and believable plots, on-the-nose acting and faultless direction.

All of the performances are spot on. Nothing overcooked or sensationalized which makes every scenario more intense, and increases the stakes of every character. Something I wish that the producers and directors of the big budget blockbusters would incorporate into their movies. Menashe Lustig, who plays the lead role of Menashe, gives a very inspirational performance. When considering that the film was shot over a two-year period, it helps you realize how dedicated the actors and crew were. A lovely relationship is formed between him and his son, Rieven, as they conspire to reform their family after the passing of his wife and Rieven’s mother.

On a side note, “Menashe” is a remarkable film that also serves as an incredible insight into the Hasidic community. I remember visiting in New York and being quite amazed whenever I encountered members of this group while walking through the streets. I appreciated the insight this film provided and would love to know how accurate it actually is. That being said, this is a very human-based narrative so 90% needs little explanation. I’m thinking more of the culture and customs.

The Verdict
An enjoyable film that breathes a lot of refreshing reality into the movies which is too often overlooked. I have a particular fondness of this type of film and love the purity and reality that it provides. A film I wish more film makers would view, and a film that warms the heart.

The Trailer

The Info
DVD Releases: 16th May 2018
Rating: PG
Duration: 82 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Menashe Lustig, Yoel Falkowitz, Ruben Niborski
Director: Joshua Z Weinstein (Flying on One Engine)

The Extras
Director Joshua Z Weinstein, who is neither a member of a Haredi community nor a speaker of Yiddish, used a translator on set.

Shot over the course of two years.