It takes a while, but once the Israeli film "Is That You?" leaves a certain amateurishness behind, it finds a soft, welcoming space for melancholy and connection.
When 60-year-old projectionist Ronnie (Alon Aboutboul) loses his job, he opts to visit his brother Jakob (Rani Bleier) in America and hopefully track down a lost love named Rachel from his teenage years. Armed with an address and a car, Ronnie begins his road trip, only to cross paths with a free-spirited young woman named Myla (Naruna Kaplan de Macedo), who's making a documentary called "The Road Not Taken," interviewing strangers about regrets.
That forced thematic coincidence coupled with the clichéd set-up of mismatched travelers make for a shaky start to writer/director Dani Menkin's bittersweet yarn. But after their personalities settle, and a night of affectionate bonding in a cheap motel shows they're both in danger of being too afraid to find answers to questions they've long asked, "Is That You?" finds a new, more charming gear.
Though the intercut snippets of recorded testimony from Myla's interviewees are never more than an annoying distraction, there's an appealingly sentimental destination in store for Ronnie and Myla's parallel quests that keeps the movie from floating away entirely on its all-too-airy premise.
'Is That You?'
In English and Hebrew with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Town Center, Encino