'Disobedience" is the latest independent film from Sebastian Lelio, the writer and director of the recent critically acclaimed film "A Fantastic Woman."
Rachel Weisz plays Ronit, a successful photographer living in New York City, who left the home she once knew after being shunned for her attraction to Esti, played by Rachel McAdams. However, now she returns home after hearing the news of her father's death, only to be shunned further for not being there for him. At the funeral, she sees her once-loved Esti, and from there the film teases the audience on their relationship and both the pain and joy it brought them both. Their reunion rekindles those feelings left behind, and drags them into a downward spiral of forbidden romance and self-doubt.
Esti has since married Dovid, a Jewish Orthodox rabbi and beloved friend of Ronit's father. Their marriage isn't exactly a happy one, as Esti was forced into it by their religion. Dovid is superbly played by Alessandro Nivola. However, what complicates the relationship between Ronit and Esti even further is the religion surrounding their lives. It suffocates them and keeps them from being who the truly want to be. Faith forced Esti to marry a man she does not love, and Ronit constantly tries to keep herself as distant from the culture as possible.
The emotional performances in this film are consistently outstanding. Weisz and McAdams shine, giving the couple they're playing perfect chemistry and emotion. The chemistry between them is passionate yet desperate, as they reintroduce the feelings they once had for each other. After being apart for so many years, their love for each other has somehow stayed just as strong.
The performances give us this atmosphere, along with Lelio's on-point direction. In addition to the leads, however, the main supporting performance by Nivola is also incredibly notable.
The film is uniquely shot, with darkly lit cinematography that captures the couple's melancholy and their struggle to keep their relationship a secret. This film is an art piece, and what is even more astounding is that we have two big-name actresses in the lead roles. Often with these sorts of small, independent films, the cast is very much unknown yet talented. With "Disobedience," the fame is there, along with the craft.
Best moment: Ronit's smart remarks at dinner
Most emotional scene: The rekindling of their relationship