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Photograph by Sharon Bareket

Winging It: Maya Maron plays a young girl forced to give up her acting ambitions to take care of her family.

Taking Flight

'Broken Wings' explores the hard road of an Israeli teen

By Richard von Busack

STUCK AS IT IS between charm and smarm, the Israeli import Broken Wings (Knafayim Shvurot) seems safest as a choice for the intellectual side of the 12-18 female audience. They get a lot of films targeted for them, but how many of them are any good? The standout performance is by the bright Maya Maron as Maya, a lonely 17-year-old who has been forced to caretake her suddenly fatherless family. She is rebelling against the task--she has ambitions to be a pop singer. Maya had just been ready to go onstage, performing with a twee pair of fairy wings on her back, but she's yanked back home to go baby-sit, after her mom, Dafna (Orli Zilbershatz-Banai), is called in for yet another night shift.

Maya's brother, Yair (Nitai Gvirtz), has given up on life to lie in bed and watch the dust in the light of his bedroom. He works a risible job dressed in a mouse suit, a stance he defends as epitomizing the pointlessness of life. ("I don't want to hear any of your mouse philosophy," snaps his mother.) And the picked-on son Ido (Daniel Magon) and his baby sister, Bahr (Eliana Magon), are starting to drift out of the picture. When Ido injures himself and ends up in a coma, the tensions in the family come to full boil.

How is Broken Wings definable as young-adults fare, despite its ridiculous R rating? Consider, for example, the resolute sexlessness of the mom. And the way the father dies has the overfanciness of teen fiction. Why the long story? When our parents die, don't we always feel responsible, no matter what the circumstances? Finally, director Nir Bergman implies that this family had once upon a time, when dad was alive, been perfect--they all danced around, as we see them in an old videotape. A perfect family is a beast you only see in young-adult books and movies; little children are too smart to believe in that legend. Broken Wings wears its broken heart on its sleeve during Maya's sobbing performance of a song she wrote for her dead father. The nasty old showbiz adage still stands: You're not supposed to make them watch you cry; you're supposed to make them cry.

The film can get under your skin, however, despite its manipulativeness. I enjoyed the scenes of Maya peddling her solitary bicycle through Haifa. It's unquestionably Israel's loveliest city, with its funicular and its steep hills, its trees and its air of secular chic. The place has a port town's mists and sadness. Which is Israel's sadness, in fine; everyone's just back from going overseas or wondering how they can get away for good. In one scene, Dafna misunderstands a question about a vacation and thinks she's being asked where she'd like to emigrate. Obviously, it is a common discussion. The bright side of the national disillusionment is that it's making for a powerful cinema far disproportionate to Israel's size. Broken Wings is excellent material for a mother-and-daughter date (and it has to be a date with mom, because the film is inexplicably rated R), and the sour males in the audience can mutter, "Just what the world needed--an Israeli version of Party of Five."

Broken Wings (R; 87 min.), directed by and written by Nir Bergman, photographed by Valentin Belonogov and starring Maya Maron and Orli Zilbershatz-Banai, opens Friday at selected theaters valleywide.

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From the April 28-May 4, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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