Late Marriage (Hatuna Meuheret)
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Despite his family’s constant pressure to find a nice wife and start a family, Zaza (Lior Ashkenazi) is still single at 31. He’s been brought to meet at least a hundred young women—and each time, his father, Yasha (Moni Moshonov), bargains with the girl’s father in vain. Zaza has somehow managed to escape engagement—much to the dismay (and disgrace) of Yasha, Zaza’s mother, Lili (Lili Koshashvili), and the rest of their family.

But there’s a reason why Zaza continues to reject the women he meets—he’s already in love. Whenever he can, he sneaks out to visit Judith (Ronit Elkabetz), an older woman who’s divorced and has a young daughter. Unfortunately, he knows that a divorcée with a child would never be welcomed into his family, so he keeps the relationship a secret and continues to go along with his parents to meet more prospective young brides.

One night, when Zaza stays out all night, his parents realize what’s going on, since having affairs with the wrong kind of women appears to be a rather common problem in Zaza’s family. In the past, the only thing that’s worked to bring an end to the situation is confrontation and coercion, so the entire family decides to stake out Judith’s apartment. They spend the whole day waiting, determined to confront the two of them and end their relationship. It soon becomes devastatingly clear to Zaza that he has to choose either his love for Judith or his devotion to his family—he can’t have both.

A number of films are currently trying to market themselves as being similar to the outrageously successful My Big Fat Greek Wedding—and this movie (filmed in Georgian and Hebrew, with English subtitles) is no different. Be warned, however, that the only real similarity between the two is that both deal with a character (who happens to have a very hands-on family) who falls in love with someone who isn’t what his or her family had in mind. And that’s where it ends.

Hatuna Meuhret (or Late Marriage) is a bittersweet film that provides insight into Israeli culture and tradition. There’s so much about it that’s un-Hollywood—from the atypical (realistic) ending to the especially long (and shocking) sex scene, which is both extremely blunt and extremely graphic (It made me rather anxiously consider closing my drapes so the neighbor kids outside wouldn’t catch a glimpse).

If you pay attention, you’ll catch plenty of humor (though it’s nothing like wacky American-movie humor), but this is one foreign film that’s difficult to totally appreciate while trying to keep up with the subtitles. You’ll have to work extra hard to both read the dialog and catch the subtle nuances—and it doesn’t help that some of the acting (especially that of Zaza’s mother) is stiff and unemotional.

That said, however, Late Marriage is a powerful film. Ashkenazi and Elkabetz do a wonderful job of creating strong—almost Romeo and Juliet-like—characters to whom even viewers from Western cultures can relate. Watch it, and you may just learn something.

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