A couple months back I finally caught Natalie Portman’s feature directorial (and writing) debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness. The fact that it’s taken me this long to post anything says that a) I’ve been busy and b) I don’t have much to say.
It’s a sincere and accomplished film that, to me at least, didn’t feel like it came from a first-time filmmaker. But like Natalie’s character, it feels somewhat removed and distant. I felt like an observer the whole time, never drawn into the story or characters.
It doesn’t help that much of the film rests on the young actor, Amir Tessler (playing the author Amos Oz), who is fine but somewhat detached. He’s just not the most compelling character to follow into the world of the film.
There are a few dream-like sequences that are really beautiful and quite moving – there’s one in particular, near the very end, that really knocked me on my ass. I almost wonder what the film would have been like if Natalie had pushed further in that direction.
As for the performance, she certainly has the most interesting character. It’s a subtle performance, where the character’s descent is marked by minor peaks and valley’s, rather than fireworks. It felt very stately. I was able to appreciate it more than really feel it in my bones.