Many families hinge on a balance of equally distributed love, and to this equilibrium Israeli writer/director Nir Bergman brings a vision that is just as delicate. His feature-length debut, Broken Wings, gingerly examines the emotional collapse that follows a death in the family. Although it's a cinematic course that's typically fraught with clichés, Bergman largely succeeds in avoiding them.
The Ulman family finds itself atomized nine months after the sudden death of its father. Those who remain all knock around their cramped apartment in Haifa, Israel, following their own trajectories, bumping into each other only rarely, as if by ricochet. Inconsolable mother Dafna (Orli Zilbershatz-Banai) barely musters the energy to work her job as a midwife, which she does in marathon shifts forcing her to rely heavily for help at home on her eldest daughter, Maya (a sloe-eyed Maya Maron), who never misses an opportunity to express her resentment. Son Yair (Nitai Gvirtz) has dropped out of high school, opting instead for a life of burping out existentialist platitudes by day and handing out fliers in a mouse costume by night. Preteen Ido (Daniel Magon) spends much of his time peering through his video camera and visiting a nearby drained swimming pool, where he likes to see how close to the deep end he can leap in. Baby Bahr (Eliana Magon), meanwhile, serves as the family's barometer, too small to contribute to the pressure but sensitive enough to measure it.
All in their separate ways, we see them try to regain their footing Dafna struggling to react to a friendly new doctor (Vladimir Friedman) in a way that doesn't wrack her with guilt; Maya angling to channel her angst into her go-nowhere rock band; Yair seeking a reason to get out of bed, let alone back to school. In time, the Ulmans are shaken out of their individual orbits by a new, if smaller, family crisis, and thanks to Bergman, this formative event doesn't feel like a plot device. Having both written the script and interpreted it through the lens, he demonstrates an imperceptibly light touch, which lends Broken Wings a natural air. The film is guilelessly shot, the dialogue phonographically candid. And while there are some shopworn phrases here Ido's camcorder as the accouterment of a lonely boy, the obligatory scene of Maya shearing her hair in disgust, the mother-daughter squabble about who wished whom had died instead of Dad they are all easy to forgive in a film that puts unsentimental faith in the value of forgiveness.