CAMPFIRE (Joseph Cedar). 95 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (May 27). For venues and times, see Movies, page 97. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Forget roasting marshmallows. This Campfire is more interested in meatier issues like political idealism, lost innocence and love.
It's 1981, the first Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories are being built, and recently widowed Rachel Gerlik ( Michaela Eshet ) is desperate to get into one even if her two teenaged daughters, Esti ( Maya Maron ) and Tami ( Hani Furstenberg ), don't share her views. To Rachel, the settlements mean community, something hard to find for a single mother, and she'll do anything to be accepted, including enduring blind dates with pompous singer Moshe and never-married bus driver Yossi ( Moshe Igvy ).
Rachel's daughters have their own concerns. Esti misses her father and acts up just to piss off Mom; Tami is determined that this year she'll be happy.
This is an unusual three-woman coming-of-age film: Esti sees she's not the only one in pain; Rachel, who realizes she's never been in love, finds comfort in soft-spoken Yossi; and Tami explores her budding sexuality with devastating consequences.
In using the settlements as backdrop, director Joseph Cedar is bound to ignite sparks. Campfire doesn't examine the now burning issue of what the settlements signify within the Arab-Israel crisis, but he does condemn their values.
A haunting film with beautiful performances and tremendous insights. Better than s'mores any day.