As I settled in to watch the heartfelt drama "The Other Son," I was instantly wary of its contrived set-up and principle plot thread. Like a classic soap opera, the center of this well meaning movie revolves around a switched-at-birth incident. This accident, however, is wrought with political and religious significance. One family is Israeli and one is Palestinian. What happens when the mistake is discovered as the two boys approach adulthood? Such a set-up would allow for plenty of intellectual discussion, teaching moments, and heavy handed drama. I could already see where the movie was heading. Remarkably, though, director Lorraine Levy (working with an incredibly nuanced screenplay) doesn't travel down the expected path. Instead, she takes this situation and turns it into a thoughtful, restrained, and pleasingly subtle experience. Truthfully, I loved "The Other Son." It never attempts to preach at its audience, it allows its characters to discover their own way. Once I gave in to the premise, everything else felt absolutely real and relatable.
In Tel Aviv, Joseph (Jules Sitruk) prepares for national service and it is discovered that his blood type does not match those of his parents. This fact throws his folks into a tailspin looking for a rational explanation. It is soon determined that a mix-up might have occurred during a hospital evacuation during the Gulf War eighteen years prior. The other boy, Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi), lives on the West Bank with his Palestinian family. After the initial shock, the two mothers (both super) try to navigate the complex situation and natural curiosity brings the two boys together. "The Other Son" is not really a plot driven endeavor, it is a character study that showcases how all of the principle family members might adjust to such an event. As such, I found the movie to be incredibly successful. Not only are the young stars given much attention, but we see the dynamics evolve within the families as they come to terms with this devastating development.
The revelation has major religious significance, obviously, especially as Joseph is declared no longer Jewish. And a number of political prejudices are confronted as supposed enemies are now united as family. The movie doesn't make bold proclamations on these topics, though, the character wrestle believably with the issues raised and that's where Levy's subtlety is appreciated and invaluable. The impact and the power of the film really snuck up on me and got under my skin. In the end, I felt a true part of this journey toward identity. The entire international cast is top notch and I've found myself thinking about "The Other Son" with some frequency since watching it. A great drama for adults, I give this one my highest recommendation due to its perfectly balanced restraint. KGHarris, 3/13.