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Review: Dreamy ‘Princess’ reveals young girl’s nightmare

Shira Haas and Adar Zohar-Hanetz portray friends in the Israeli drama "Princess."
(Breaking Glass Pictures)

The moody, hallucinatory and darkly intimate drama “Princess” by Israeli writer-director Tali Shalom-Ezer explores the psychological coping mechanisms of children who are subjected to abuse within their families. The precocious and intelligent Adar (Shira Haas) is mature mentally but physically childlike, just rounding the cusp of puberty.

There are few boundaries in the home she shares with her mother Alma (Keren Mor) and her mother’s boyfriend, Michael (Ori Pfeffer). Alma treats her daughter as both a child and a romantic rival, admonishing her for not waking up in the morning or failing to go to school but otherwise leaving the girl to her own devices, relying on the unemployed Michael to look after Adar while she’s at work.

Lonely, withdrawn Adar encounters an enigmatic street kid, Alan (Adar Zohar-Hanetz), and invites him to stay at their home, which Alma and Michael are shockingly fine with. The quiet youth is Adar’s doppelganger and confidant; the two look incredibly similar and dress alike. Michael tests the boundaries of his relationships with Adar and Alan and we begin to wonder if Alan is a projection, another consciousness that Adar has created as an escape, a persona who can express the rage that she can’t.

The film is an incredibly unflinching portrayal of sexual abuse, particularly one scene filmed in a static shot that never cuts away, requiring an intense amount of bravery and trust between the actors. The young actress Haas is riveting in a performance far beyond her years. “Princess” takes its time, but patience pays off in this sensitive slow burn of a story.

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‘Princess’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

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Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills


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