Oy Vey

Holy Lands 
Stars: James Caan, Tom Hollander, Rosanna Arquette, Efrat Dor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Patrick Bruel
Director/Scriptwriter: Amanda Sthers based on the book by Amanda Sthers
Composer: Gregoire Hetzel
Cinematography: Regis Blondeau
Rating: No rating but could be PG 13
Running Length: 100 Minutes 

Raising pigs in present-day Israel?  Can this be? Yes, pigs and by-products, are used as a defense or deterrent when it comes to protection against terrorist attacks.  It seems as though the other side, does not like pigs and pork.  It is the idea of raising pigs that is part of this film by writer/director Amanda Sthers, who has the scenes of the film interspersed with action from a play written by one of the characters. Narration gives background, too. James Caan (remember Sonny from the “Godfather” films) plays Harry, the pig farmer, while Tom Hollander (“Pirates of the Caribbean” films) plays Moshe, the local rabbi.  You can figure out who is irritating who. 

Harry is a retired cardiologist who has come to Israel to raise pigs. He has to learn how to be a farmer without alienating his neighbors.  This is difficult. Moshe, the local rabbi, has six children and finds it offensive to have pigs so close to his property. Also, there is a local cult who doesn’t want Harry there, either, they want his land and claim it is a holy place from the time of Jesus.  You begin to see how wars start.  Into the mix are Harry’s estranged wife, Monica (Rosanna Arquette) with her problems, plus their daughter Annabelle (Efrat Dor from "The Zookeeper's Wife") who is a perennial college student, and their son, David (Jonathan Rhys Meyers from "The Tudors"), a noted playwright who is gay and not accepted by his father. Not only this, but Harry’s former medical partner has his eye on Monica.  Harry takes a liking to an abandoned piglet he names Judas, and this little one becomes the property’s pet.  That the piglet has the run of the house offends most everyone. In one scene, Monica is at a restaurant and hears a noted critic talk disparagingly of David’s latest play, The critic admits he slept through the play and his review was not an honest one.  There are barriers that have been built and barriers that can come down.. 

James Caan does the crusty old man just fine and one can see that he has built a wall inside himself that is difficult to dismantle. Emotions are hard to display.  Tom Hollander is the rabbi with dry wit, wisdom, and ready to explore the situation.  His cooking instructions are a scene in itself. Rosanna Arquette is the wife who was left out of Harry’s emotions and now has no one to lean on.  Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the gay son, David, shows us the turmoil of living a life that makes you happy and people in your family, unhappy. Walking such a tightrope is difficult and his facial expressions show this. Efrat Dor is the daughter who has not grown up, and when Dad stops giving her money, what to do? This suddenly-having-to-grow-up shows in her body language---I don’t know what to do next.  Aiding the actors is the soundtrack by Gregoire Hetzel, giving us appropriate music at the right time without overpowering the scene. Cinematography by Regis Blondeau shows us a dry, arid Israel, and his use of sunsets and shadow is well done. 

There is humor in the banter between Harry and Moshe, and between Harry and just about everyone else.  His caustic wit is always ready.  The timing in the dialogues between Harry and the rabbi, flows smoothly back and forth.  The kindness Harry gave his little pet, was apparently not shown to his children as they were growing up.  Caan goes back and forth between tenderness and gruffness smoothly. Who is going to make the first move to go past their emotional wall?  Harry?  His daughter? The rabbi?  The cult leader? And will these moves be pleasant or not?  You will be surprised.  


Copyright 2019 Marie Asner