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Review: A Tale of Love and Darkness

August 26, 2016

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

A Tale of Love and Darkness PosterAn accomplished feature directorial debut for Natalie Portman, A Tale of Love and Darkness is a beautifully crafted adaptation of acclaimed Israeli author Amos Oz’s autobiography of the same name, that provides a way for the Oscar-winning actress to explore her own Jewish heritage.

The film follows Amos (Amir Tessler) as a young boy growing up in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate for Palestine in the 1940s, with a father (Gilad Kahana) who instills in him a love of words, and a mother (Natalie Portman) with whom he shares a profound connection, even as political uncertainty and shattered dreams take their toll on her through deep-rooted depression.

The multilayered narrative depicts the history of the time and place in authentic detail, showing the increasing tension that preceded the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.  But A Tale of Love and Darkness is also an incredibly touching story about the undying love between a mother and son, and the stories they share between them.  It’s in these moments that Natalie Portman, herself the mother of a young boy, reveals another side of her deeply personal connection to the material, especially in the highly emotional final few scenes.

The film is carried by solid acting from newcomers Amir Tessler and Gilad Kahana, as well as moving supporting work from Natalie Portman herself, who believably and emotionally conveys her character’s descent into the depths of depression.  Featuring gorgeous cinematography by Slawomir Idziak, A Tale of Love and Darkness is a moving and beautifully written period piece about dreams dashed amidst cultural turmoil, that is at once lyrical and heartbreaking.

A Tale of Love and Darkness opens today in limited release at Varsity Cinemas in Toronto.

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