A Tale of Love and Darkness
Directed by Natalie Portman
A story about the childhood of Oz in Jerusalem and his youth in the Kibbutz during the British Mandate and the first days of the state of Israel. The plot describes the relationship between young Oz to his mother and his first steps as a writer.
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★★★½ review by Dawson Joyce on Letterboxd
Although often melodramatic and muddled, A Tale of Love and Darkness makes for an assured, engaging, and admirable debut from Natalie Portman as both a director and a screenwriter that's also home to one of her best performances.
★★★★ review by lu on Letterboxd
Every shot, every line, the whole story, the acting, the cinematography, literally everything about this film is incredible, i'm not saying this only because natalie portman is the love of my life but she actually nailed it as director, writer and, as always, as an actor, it's probably a project very close to her heart and it blew me away!
★★★½ review by ButtNugget on Letterboxd
Natalie Portman’s labor of love is a delicate drama about the birth of the Israeli state as seen through the eyes of a child in late 1940s Jerusalem, of young Amos Oz who went on to become one of the country’s most influential writers as well as a proponent of the two-state solution. This is a very impressive and self-assured directorial outing by the actress, demonstrating a keen eye on detail and knowledge of history. She also shows a high degree of empathy when portraying Islamic-Jewish relations within the story. In addition to directing, Portman plays Amos Oz’s troubled mother, a frail but loving woman who went on a downward spiral of depression because of the events transpiring around her. I was irked, though, by some of the contrivances in her character arc, but thankfully Portman downplays much of the sentimentality. Anyway, this is quite a pleasant surprise and I’d really love to see more of director Natalie Portman in the future.
★★★½ review by Shachar Gannot on Letterboxd
Hearing Natalie Portman speak in Hebrew gives me life.
A Tale of Love and Darkness is rather poetic; though I could not identify with Fania. The film monologue, describing her woes, sounds like she was a little girl that could not acclimate to adulthood. Though I suppose things weren't as simple as that. Living in the land of Israel in the 1940s was rotten. Stay in Poland, arguably, would have been worse. This was not an easy decade for Jews to live in. I think it would have been fairer to Fania to attribute her problems to mental health and not to her inability to live a life that was far removed from the one she dreamt up for herself as a little girl.
The film itself was interesting, though the writing was oftentimes a bit much. That is simply not colloquial Hebrew! Perhaps I'm mistaken, and in the 1940s this is what spoken Hebrew sounded like. To me, it sounded unnatural.
I also don't know if the intention was that I'd hate Arieh, but I truly did. I'd like to think that I come from a family of intellectuals, but this guy was just over-the-top. Every time he opened his mouth, I wanted to scream. His inability to understand his wife's communication with his son did not help.
Let me end my review by stating that I'm glad this film exists and that the fact that Natalie Portman chose an Israeli classic as her first directorial feature debut warms my heart.
★★★½ review by Taylor Baker on Letterboxd
It may be that the story hits close to home so I'm blinded to it's flaws that so many others see. The format of telling a shared story where they each make up a bit, followed up by a movie filled with moments of the adolescent search for truth that are often book ended by his interactions with adults telling and showing him truths of a deeper meaning really had me enthralled. It is a film that highlights dichotomy. Between oral storytelling and written storytelling, melancholy and jubilation, war and peace, empty and filled, light and shadow, mother and father, love and darkness. Portman is great, she might not know how to direct herself perfectly yet but I suspect she'll get there. An impressive debut.
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