(This review appeared in the print edition of the Australian Jewish News on 19 June 2009 and the online version on 22 June.)
The new Israeli film Noodle is a sophisticated and satisfying Israeli drama, which blends both modern and traditional Israeli stories. The film is set against the background of the almost overnight transformation of Israel into a country with some hundreds of thousands of illegal foreign workers, many of them from Asia (who ever would have thought?).
In the film, a twice-widowed El Al flight attendant Miri (Mili Avital) arrives back at her flat to find her Chinese cleaning woman racing out for “just one hour” and leaving her six-year-old son in her care. But the cleaning woman never returns.
Noodle builds on the constant sense of loss and grief that pervades Israel, given not only the history of the Holocaust, but the ghosts of those who have fallen in Israel’s many wars. In this instance, Miri has lost two husbands in Israel’s wars, one a pilot and one a soldier, and is suffering from serious undiagnosed depression as a result.
Although the script is satisfying (and particularly so in how it deals kindly and gently with the romantic needs of the four main adult characters in the film), Noodle achieves its success especially through a very strong cast. The real star of the film, without which Noodle simply would not have worked, is Baoqi Chen – a young Chinese actor from Shanghai. Despite starring in his first film, he convincingly displays anger, frustration, joy, sadness and elation.
The moments when his character is happy on screen are truly magical. He was reportedly much beloved on the set of this film and watching you can see why. Lest we think that Americans have such a hold on top child actors, this young Chinese boy -– incongruously appearing in an Israeli film – gives one of the best child acting performances in recent years.
To read my complete review of this film, click here.