M-SPIFF Review: “Jellyfish” (Meduzot)

Directors: Shira Geffen, Etgar Keret
Writers: Shira Geffen
Producers: Yael Fogiel, Laetitia Gonzalez, Amir Harel, Ayelet Kit
Starring: Sarah Adler, Tsipor Aizen, Bruria Albek, Ilanit Ben-Yaakov, Assi Dayan
Country of origin: Israel
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 78 min

Capping off my exciting week at the Mpls-St Paul International Film Festival (because Tornatore’s film was sold out) was quite an enjoyable little film out of Israel entitled Jellyfish by a husband and wife directing team who obviously have not been tainted with the Hollywood style of drama (big, loud and unrealistic). Instead, they’ve put together a quiet, reflecting pool of a film that can touch everyone on a personal and relatable level.

Sort of in the same vein as Babel or Crash, several lives tangentially cross paths, each with their own problems and worries. But unlike more mainstream fare like Babel or Crash, Jellyfish is devoid of all the melodrama and exaggerated life experiences. Jellyfish has much more realistic expectations of its characters in terms of the types of problems real people have and the ways in which they deal with them; through dialogue, acting out or emotional expression.

The film is very female centric. Each of the main characters are females (which is a good thing) and each have real life problems that although are heartbreaking, are also touching and even humorous at times. One young woman stumbles across a nearly mute little girl; wet and almost naked as she emerges from the ocean. Forced to take care of her for the weekend, it changes the woman’s life and her relationships forever. A migrant worker from the Philippines is tossed from caretaker job to caretaker job for various elderly folk while her only ambition is to get back home in time for her son’s birthday party and with enough money to buy him a decent present. Meanwhile, a young couple is forced to spend their honeymoon in a cheap motel instead of going to the Bahamas because the bride has broken her ankle on their wedding night. Together, they see their entire future unfold before them and their relationship is strengthened by an unlikely fellow tenant at the hotel.

All of these small, mundane problems might seem pretty boring; and maybe to the heartless or the untrained eye I could see it getting a bit tedious. But the directing team puts all of this together in such a melancholy way that easy to empathize with and even laugh with these characters at some of the absurdities they’re forced to deal with.

Although screened with a small, digital projector in a cramped theater with a fairly small screen, it’s obvious that care was taken with the cinematography and style. Quite a number of the shots that are normally as plain as a sidewalk street are shot in such a way that each one is unique and interesting in its own way. Plenty of details to keep the eyes busy; all the while marveling at some of the less prevalent, but nevertheless outstanding, art production values employed. Some of the beach and underwater shots were of particular interest.

With nice performances, cute stories and a directing flair that’s already won a couple of awards at Cannes and was nominated for several awards at the equivalent of the Israeli Oscars, Jellyfish pretty much delights on nearly every level. The film itself didn’t really strike a huge emotional chord with me (hence the slightly lower score), but aside from that, the film is practically critic proof in its near flawlessness.

Click “play” to see the trailer:

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Marina Antunes

I enjoyed it but wasn't quite as impressed as you were. There is a lot to see, true, but I found the film didn't really push far enough and like you, I didn't have much of an emotional connection to it either. However, I did love the little girl, whose beautiful eyes you could drown in, and the storyline of the married couple was my fave of the bunch – mostly because I loved the writer.

Gorgeous but a bit too 'safe' for my taste.