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Review: Eyes Wide Open

Melancholy spirituality
By PETER KEOUGH  |  May 5, 2010
3.5 3.5 Stars

Though Hair Tabakman’s intense melodrama seethes with eroticism, for most of the film the only flesh on view is the raw meat in Aaron’s (Zohar Shtrauss, who with his beard looks like Dostoevsky) butcher shop in a stark Haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem. Enduring a joyless conventional life of work, worship, and family, Aaron slowly comes alive when (Ron Danker), a homeless yeshiva student with a checkered, mysterious past, starts working for him and takes up residence at the shop.

After the two go skinny-dipping Aaron embraces his desire for the youth with a kind of zealotry. He talks of changing the world to accommodate their love, but he still keeps the affair a secret — after all, he has a wife and four kids and is a respected member of the synagogue.

All the same, rumors persist, the “modesty squad” pays him a visit, his docile wife gets suspicious, and not even the liberal-leaning rabbi can help much. Neither, it seems, can Aaron help himself. “I feel alive now,” he confesses hopelessly. “I was dead before.” As oblique and laconic as its characters, Tabakman’s moral tale rises to a melancholy spirituality.

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