I have only kind words for "The Kind Words," an emotionally rich, beautifully textured family dramedy that touches on a wealth of interpersonal issues with buoyancy, charm and grace. It's one of the best films so far this year.
Writer-director Shemi Zarhin masterfully explores a haunting, vital theme: Why do we sometimes learn more about a parent in death than in life? For Jewish Israeli adult siblings Dorona (Rotem Zissman-Cohen), Netanel (Roy Assaf) and Shai (Assaf Ben-Shimon), this question takes on unexpected resonance when, after the passing of their beloved mother, Yona (Levana Finkelstein), they discover their actual father may be Yona's long-ago Algerian lover, Maurice, and not Michael (Sasson Gabai), the man who raised the trio as his own.
The revelation sets the siblings on an engaging, heartfelt, at times amusing detective hunt that takes them from Jerusalem to Paris and then to Marseilles, where they finally zero in on their possible biological dad (Maurice Bénichou). Dorona's devoted husband (Tsahi Halevi), Yona's touchy sister (Florence Bloch) and a lovely aging actress (Louise Portal) factor in as well.
Credible complications ensue and, although the story doesn't traffic in easy answers, it offers a wise and unusually satisfying ending that for some here may also mark a new beginning.
Perhaps most impressive, though, is how Zarhin and his fine, appealing actors deftly capture the essence of a tight sibling bond: that playfully blunt, lovingly annoyed, history-filled dynamic unique to growing up — and to growing older — together.
'The Kind Words'
In French and Hebrew with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle Royal Theater, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino