Family, duty, and affection are what make up the Israeli movie Fill the Void. It is all in Hebrew with English subtitles.
The story is about a young 18-year-old Hassidic girl who is excited to be getting married. But it is not a done deal. She has seen the man the matchmaker found for her, and she likes him. The film has shades of Fiddler on the Roof, but with a modern twist because in this modern-day story the woman can outwardly decline the match. No one is forced to marry, but they do get a little pressure, even in modern day Tel Aviv.
Esther (Hadas Sharon) feels the importance of tradition and her religion. She is a dutiful daughter but also has a mind of her own. She is happy to be marrying, or at least be in the beginning stages of setting up a marriage, when things fall apart. Her beloved sister Esther dies during childbirth leaving her husband Yohai (Yiftach Klein) and infant son. Esther’s family takes on the responsibility of caring for them, especially baby Mordechai.
When it seems like Yohai will take the baby and move away, Esther’s mother comes up with a plan. She feels Esther should marry Yohai and that way the family will stay together. But does Esther want to marry her brother-in-law?
The film is basically about family and coming to terms with obligations. While Esther does not have to marry Yohai, she feels obliged to do so. But does she love him? That is another question. And in this society the Rabbi has the final say. Will the Rabbi bless the union or not?
Esther grapples with what is right versus what her heart tells her to do. Is it right to do what your parents want you to do even though you feel it is the wrong thing for you? Or do you put your own desires away and do what is expected of you?
Unlike other orthodox religions and cultures, Esther has the choice. She will not be forced into a marriage she does not want. Her heart tells her to wait for a man to whom she feels an attraction. The interesting part about this film is the choice she makes. Can she do both? Can Esther please her family and herself?
Hadas Yaron is a young Israeli actress. This is her first leading role in a feature film. She won the Best Actress awards for her role in Fill the Void at the Award of the Israeli Film Academy, and the Venice Film Festival. For an actress just starting out, she has set the bar high for herself. She is the talk of the country, having gone from being a waitress in a coffee shop one day to accepting the award at the Venice Film Festival the next. With her performance in this film, it is highly doubtful this young woman will be waitressing again.
Fill the Void opens May 24, 2013. It is an interesting look at the dynamics of a modern-day Orthodox Hassidic Israeli family. It is not an upbeat film. It is dark and frustrating. But it is a window into the life of this one young girl.