2008 // France // Amos Gitai // November 17, 2009 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
Amos Gitai's camera tightly frames his characters in his Holocaust-cum-family drama, One Day You'll Understand. The film flirtis with a claustrophobic atmosphere, yet it remains distractingly distant from the unfolding events. In its slackest moments, Gitai's style exhibits no feeling other than idle curiosity, a odd flaw given the intensely personal character of the story. That story centers on the prying of Victor (Hippolyte Girardot) into his family's muddled history, which thrusts together Catholics and Russian Jews in Nazi-occupied France with predictably tragic results. Unfortunately, his elderly mother Rivka (a magisterial Jeanne Moreau, one the film's bright spots) is reluctant to speak of the past. The film's primary problem is that in trying to weave together two substantial thematic threads--the veiled character of post-WWII Jewish identity in France, and the challenges of birthrights--Gitai fails to give either a sufficiently rich treatment, and the results feels fumbling and hollow. A late scene, wherein Girardot wanders his mother's flat as it is dismantled for its valuables, plays as a pale echo of Summer Hours. One Day You'll Understand lacks the focus, grace, and delight for character and space that made Olivier Assayas' film an exquisite exploration of a mundane subject.