Reviewed byRed-125Vote: 9/10/10
Menashe (2017) was co-written and directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein. Itwas filmed in the Hasidic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The Hasidim are a subgroup within ultra-orthodox Judaism. So, all ofthe Hasidim are ultra- orthodox Jews, but not all ultra-orthodox Jewsare Hasidim. The Hasidim are concentrated in the Williamsburg sectionof Brooklyn. There's a mix of many cultures in Williamsburg, but theChasidim stand out because of their different dress and the fact thatthey speak Yiddish as their primary language. Another characteristic ofthe Hasidim--as shown clearly in the film--is the loyalty of each groupto their own rabbi. The rabbi has the final say about major events likemarriage, as well as many day-to-day practical matters.
Menashe (portrayed well by Menashe Lustig) is a basically decent guywhose life is a mess. He has a low-paying job as a stock clerk in asmall Chasidic grocery store. He owes money. He is a widower, which byHasidic custom means he can't have his son living with him unless heremarries.
He loves his son Fischel, brilliantly played by Yoel Falkowitz. Fischelis a good son, but he is beginning to recognize that Menashe fails atmost of what he attempts.
In the film, Menashe is called a "schlimazel." That's a Yiddish wordthat describes a person who is chronically unlucky. This can often meanthat the person is inept and incompetent, and that's why he's unlucky.It's a sad thing to be a schlimazel, and it's no fun being the son of aschlimazel either. The plot of the movie demonstrates those facts.
I enjoyed watching this film because it allows a glimpse into a verydifferent culture from mainstream U.S. culture, and even frommainstream Jewish culture. It's almost an anthropological film, and yetit tells a clear, if unhappy story.
We saw this movie at the excellent Little Theatre in Rochester, NY. Ithas a terrible IMDb rating of 6.3. It's not a masterpiece, but it'smuch better than that.
Reviewed byPotassiumManVote: 8/10/10
This quiet drama portrays the scuffling life of a man within theHasidic community in Brooklyn as he endeavors to regain custody of hisson in the aftermath of his wife's passing. He is expected to find anew wife and achieve stability as he holds down a low-paying,labor-intensive job as a grocery clerk that drains him of his time andhis spirit. He has difficulty keeping his own modest life in order, letalone being strong enough to provide for another human being.
His efforts to better himself in order to regain custody of his son aremet with dismissal from those around him, including his more devout andfinancially stable brother-in-law whom the community has decided shouldlook after the man's son. He gets little encouragement from thosewithin his community, yet he persists.
There is a considerable schism within the Hasidic community that comesto light in this film, especially on account of the man'sless-than-pious lifestyle and more secular demeanor. He doesn't readilyembrace the hard-line teachings of his sect as forcefully as his peers,but he nevertheless wants what's best for his son and wants to fulfillthe requirements of his denomination in order to remain a real father.In that regard, this is an exceptional portrayal of loyalty to one'sreligious faith in the face of ongoing personal conflict. It'sdefinitely not for many viewers who wouldn't relate to religiousdoctrine as a deciding force in one's life, but it's still a storythat's effectively conveyed and devoid of proselytizing. Recommended toopen-minded viewers.
Reviewed byHoward SchumannVote: 8/10/10
The Hasidic tradition that a child must be raised in a household wherethere is both a mother and a father is one of the cultural issuesbrought to the fore in Joshua Weinstein's bittersweet film Menashe.Co-written by Alex Lipschutz and Musa Syeed ("A Stray") and set in theHasidic community in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn using allnon-professional actors, Menashe is an engaging character study thatprovides rare insight into a society largely hidden from the outsideworld and a father's endearing love for his son and the challenges hefaces strike a universal chord.
Spoken almost entirely in Yiddish, Menashe (Menashe Lustig) is awidower who wants to live his own life and raise his young son Rieven(Ruben Niborski) by himself. Unfortunately, the ultra-Orthodoxcommunity of which he is a part does not see it that way. In hisopposition to Hasidic cultural norms, he risks his son's expulsion fromschool and jeopardizes his status in the community. Menashe wants to doright by his son, but the Talmud says that a man needs three things: anice wife, a house and dishes (presumably no paper plates). Without awife Menashe has to allow Rieven's gruff and super critical uncle Eizik(Yoel Weisshaus) to raise the boy. The burly, sloppy-looking Menashefancies himself as a rebel, refusing to wear a hat and jacket requiredby Hasidic custom, but he is a rebel without a cause.
Weinstein, however, does not stand in judgment of his main characterand tells his story in a straightforward, if not entirely sympatheticmanner, but it is a hard sell. Menashe's job stocking shelves at alocal market is barely enough to make a living and his ineptness drawsthe ire of his boss when one thousand dollars worth of gefilte fishfalls out of the van he is driving. In addition, the small unkemptone-room apartment is a dubious environment to raise a child. Menashefeeds his son junk food and sodas for breakfast, but the boy, thoughcritical of the way he treated his mother, still loves him.
The stakes are high but Menashe refuses to remarry, telling friendsthat his previous arranged marriage with an Israeli woman was filledwith constant conflict and unhappiness and tells a beggar to avoidmarriage because "it's better for your health." He goes on a date witha widowed mother with children who is not reticent about telling himwhat a fine husband he would make. When Menashe shows his reluctance toenter into a marriage of convenience, however, she condemns Hasidicmen, saying that "First your mothers spoil you, then your wives."Menashe appeals to the rabbi (Meyer Schwartz) but he is unyielding.Eventually he takes pity and offers a compromise: Rieven can stay withMenashe for one month, but if he hasn't remarried after the anniversaryof his mother's death, the boy must return to Eizik.
Desperate to prove himself to be a worthy father, Menashe asks therabbi if he can host a memorial for his deceased wife in his smallapartment. Reluctantly all agree that "even a bear can learn to dance."Menashe raises complex issues about the conflict between socialacceptance, religious dogma, and human needs and desires.Unfortunately, the film's running time of eighty-two minutes seemsinadequate to explore the complex issues the film raises. Weinstein,however, does not want to go there. He said, "I was interested more inthe non-plot elements than the plot of the film. It was about thetexture, the anecdotes, faces, moments." These poignant faces andmoments are what we cannot forget.
Menashe, a widower, lives and works within the Hasidic community of Borough Park, Brooklyn. Since his wife passed away a year before, he has been trying hard to regain custody of his nine-year-old son, Rieven. But the rabbi (and all the community behind him) will not hear of it unless he re-marries, which Menashe does not want, his first marriage having been very unhappy. Father and son get on well together, but can Menashe take care of Rieven properly? Not really for all his goodwill as he holds down a low-paid job as a grocery clerk that consumes too much of his efforts and energy. Always late, always in a hurry, he endeavors to improve himself though. But will his efforts be enough to convince the rabbi that he can be a good father without a wife at home?