Natalie Portman wrote, directed and starred in A Tale of Love and Darkness, her directorial debut after decades of being in movies helmed by the likes of Woody Allen, Mike Nichols, and Anthony Minghella. The Oscar-winning actress also considered the film as a labor of love because it took years to find funding for it, not to mention that she’s the daughter of Jewish immigrants and she’s a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She has, indeed, come into her own time for a first in her film career.
A Tale of a Mother’s Love
The drama film was adapted from Amos Oz’s 2002 memoir about his childhood in Jerusalem and his time with his beautiful mother. It’s a story about the violent birth of a nation, Israel, and the sad death of a mother whose demise coincided with the dashing of her hopes for a better life. It’s indeed a tale of love between a mother and her child amidst the darkness that surrounds them – and it’s a tale that the beloved son will tell the world in honor of his mother.
In the movie, an elderly Oz tells their story in flashbacks. Fania (Portman), his mother, comforts him as a pre-teen child by engaging in a storytelling game. In doing so, they establish a bonding ritual that not only strengthens their bond against the pressures of the external world but also allows them a temporary escape from their current conditions. Oz with his restless spirit also finds solace for his soul and an outlet for his imaginative spirit via these storytelling games.
Together, the mother-and-son tandem has love around them but darkness has a way of encroaching upon the light. Fania, in time, eventually succumbs to depression.
Strong Debut from a Seasoned Actress
Portman has shone in several roles including her award-winning take in Black Swan. But can she translate her sensitivity as an actress into her directorial and screenwriting debut? Yes, she has but there are areas for improvement, as can be expected.
For example, Portman appears to be torn between making her first film a coming-of-age biopic for Amos and a personal tragedy about Fania, a martyr-like character who has given up so much of her dreams for others. The tug-of-war makes for a confusing focus at first until the fact that the film’s a story of two human beings’ heartbreaking story set amidst the story of a birth of a nation becomes more and more apparent.
Is this movie worth seeing at all? Yes, it is and it’s worth seeing in the luxurious comfort of an Odeon theater.