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Unorthodox behavior

by David Lamble

Rachel Weisz (left) as Ronit Krushka, and Rachel McAdams (right) as Esti Kuperman, in Sebastián Lelio's "Disobedience." Photo: Bleecker Street
Rachel Weisz (left) as Ronit Krushka, and Rachel McAdams (right) as Esti Kuperman, in Sebasti├ín Lelio's "Disobedience." Photo: Bleecker Street  

By now you will have probably heard about the racy lesbian bedroom scene that is giving "Disobedience," a contemporary family drama from Chilean helmer Sebastian Lelio, its well-deserved online buzz. In his first English-language feature, Lelio delivers a nuanced look behind the scenes of a London Orthodox Jewish community as an attractive young woman unexpectedly returns to her religious family upon the sudden death of her pious father. This means rubbing shoulders with observant ex-friends who shunned her for her attraction to a female childhood friend. The reunion rekindles their old passions as the women seek the freedom to jump-start new lives together in more-tolerant New York.

Director Lelio (with co-screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz) brings Naomi Alderman's novel to the screen, making good use of its contemporary London settings. The explosive six-minute bedroom scene will bring a new generation of filmgoers to the task of bringing an isolated-by-choice Orthodox community kicking and screaming into the secularizing perils of the morally hazardous modern world.

The film is blessed with energetic turns from its lead cast: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, and Allesandro Nivola, as the rabbi who attempts to thwart the women's pursuit of happiness. The filmmakers are brave in daring to present a modern, non-observant audience with the inside details of how the pious avoid becoming sanctimonious. In a very moving moment, the ambitious and at first overly aggressive young rabbi realizes his error and releases his young bride into a relationship he can't be entirely comfortable with. Rated R for strong sexuality. Opens Friday.

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