105 Minutes 2012
A simple yet creative story, The Other Son is a fictional film by Lorraine Lévy. It has such potential, yet gets muddled by both a script that fails to do much of anything and inaccuracies about the current situation in Israel. Two sons are accidentally switched at birth at a hospital in Haifa, with Joseph, the Palestinian child, unknowingly is raised as a Jewish Israeli. Meanwhile the Jewish Israeli child, Yassin, has been raised as a Muslim Palestinian in the West Bank. Their identities and lives encounter turmoil once the truth is revealed. These of course bring about a challenge not only to themselves but also to their families, as everyone attempts to cope with this new reality and wrestle with tough issues surrounding identity.
The film is reminiscent of the Prince and the Pauper, as Joseph grows up with a wealthy Israeli family, while Yassin in an impoverished Palestinian family. While Joseph lives a life of wealth in Tel Aviv, quite atypical to the life of many Israelis, Yassin lives in a nondescript Palestinian town. There is focus on the family’s poverty and their difficulty in affording basic food items at times. This is despite the fact that Palestinians live quite well relative to much of the Arab world.
To build this story, Ms. Levy must create a somewhat implausible scenario in which neither Joseph nor Yassin had their blood type checked until they were 18. While this film holds potential for humor, given Ms. Levy’s background in comedy, or could delve deeper into the meaning of identity, Ms. Levy instead chooses to steer the film into the political realm. Relatively little effort is made to explore how Yassin or Joseph now actually feel given their new discovered identity, and a heavy serious tone sets in early on and rarely fades away.
It is in the political realm that Ms. Levy chooses to street the story to, that it becomes muddled by inaccuracies, unfair comparisons and inaccurate suggestions. Moreover it is rife with gender stereotypes, as the female secondary characters are the peacemakers while the male secondary characters are stubborn tough figures. Suicide bombings are eventually mentioned, but only as an insult levied against Palestinians rather than as an issue that is a real and persistent threat.
Other inaccuracies include a focus on the three percent of the security barrier that is concrete, with no images of the 97% of it that is merely wire fence, or an explanation of its great success in halting suicide bombings. Moreover checkpoints into Israel are portrayed as an unnecessary inconvenience that Muslims must endure, as opposed to the reality that border crossings are a normal security necessity, similar to what Israel has on its Egyptian and Jordanian border.
Ms. Levy cannot help but repeatedly bring up allusions and rhetoric to Israel as an apartheid state, despite the fact that the premise of the story is of a Palestinian giving birth at an Israeli hospital, and Palestinians are able to repeatedly cross from their village into Israel and Tel Aviv. Palestinians are given ample time to state their perspective, while the Israelis only once delve into the subject, stating merely that the Palestinians are where they are because of their leaders’ fault. If Ms. Levy wanted to create a movie that covers the conflict, then she should have introduced the context and background necessary, and steer clear of inaccuracies. If she wanted to create a movie that explores identity, then she should have kept the focus there and dug a bit deeper.
by Gilad Skolnick