by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday July 28, 2017


One of the most powerful components of cinema is its ability to transport the audience into another domain.

Yes, this certainly applies to the fantasy-driven universes and fabricated adventures of studio blockbusters, but it's even truer of the smaller films -independent features that whisk us away to worlds we're unaccustomed to, showing us life through the eyes of another beholder. Often, these films are the most powerful examples of empathetic transcendence, and A24's latest release, "Menashe," fits this bill quite perfectly.

Set within the New York Hasidic community of Borough Park, Brooklyn, "Menashe" brings us into the day-to-day life of our recently widowed title character, a kind grocery store clerk who faces misfortune and barriers as he tries to maintain custody of his son, Rieven. The traditions of Hasidic culture dictate that a mother must be present in the home as a child grows up, so Menashe's stern brother is scheduled to adopt Rieven until Menashe remarries.

The film tenderly showcases the relationship between father and son, tangled in the confines of cultural institutions. Menashe, desperate to prove himself as a capable parent, is often a hapless, tragic figure, while Rieven clearly still admires the man for who he is and what he is trying to do. The bond between these two is life-affirming and honest, while the performances (especially that of lead actor Menashe Lustig) are striking in amplifying this warm sincerity.

The film was shot in secret, entirely within the Hasidic community depicted in the film, and is one of the only movies to be performed in Yiddish in nearly 70 years. These creative choices help in elevating the film to new heights in its capturing of a world many are unfamiliar with. It immerses us in this community, and by the end of the film, it's hard not to feel like a part of it.