Natalie’s writing and directorial feature debut has finally been seen and the early reviews are across the board. No real consensus beyond “it doesn’t suck”.
The most positive so far has been via The Guardian.
Homely, bespectacled Arieh (Gilad Kahana) and even glum little Amos (Amir Tessler) are inevitably overshadowed by Portman’s near-radioactive screen presence. But its on her achievement as a director that her role in this film will be judged, and it’s accurate to say she has done an impressive job, easily the equal of Angelina Jolie, who went similarly serious for her first feature, the Bosnian war drama In the Land of Blood and Honey.) Portman has made a film with something serious and interesting to say about Israel, a nuanced portrait of the place that demonstrates a commitment to, and connection with, her home country. This is an assured, heartfelt debut.
The Telegraph gave the film 3 stars.
The film feels like a personal project for Portman, but thankfully never a vanity one. It’s a fine piece of work – and you sense there’s better to come.
ScreenDaily found a lot to admire but wished Natalie had infused a bit more chaos into the depiction.
This is one of Portman’s warmest, saddest performances, but it’s also surprisingly superficial. To be sure, Fania is meant to be an enigmatic figure — even her husband, who loves her dearly, doesn’t quite understand her — but the character’s slow-motion withdrawal from the world lacks the heartbreak it deserves. Here again, we see the downside to Tale’s delicate tone: Portman adores Oz’s book and its characters so much that she never quite digs deeply enough to bring them to life.
Variety wasn’t particularly impressed.
Most likely, it was simply a case of her being touched by Oz’s work and wanting to share that emotional experience with others, though her drearily empathetic film lacks whatever universality has made “Tale” such an international phenomenon, and will rely on Portman’s name to attract interest beyond Israel.
The Hollywood Reporter seem mixed.
Portman’s low-key performance interiorizes all Fania’s pain and humiliation, only expressing her self-loathing when she thinks no one is looking by slapping herself on the face. But Amos’s silent eyes drink in everything.
The Wrap are not fans of the film but are fans of Natalie’s performance in it.
The best thing one can say about Natalie Portman‘s directorial debut, “A Tale of Love and Darkness” is that it’s not an outright disaster.
But sadly it feels like a vanity piece, showcasing the actress as a self-martyring Jewish mother, raising her supremely-cultured, refugee family on the cusp of Israel becoming a state in 1947.
Of course it’s not every day that a movie star – and a female one at that – puts herself on the line by writing and directing a serious film. That’s to be celebrated. And watching Portman act in fluent Hebrew is a bit of a delightful shock, like seeing someone you’ve known a long time suddenly demonstrate that they can juggle knives or walk a tightrope.
Thanks to Kitten and Belerofonte.