Tribeca Film Review: ‘Disobedience’ Declares Elegance and Love As Its Universal Language


2018 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: The sensual nature of love hasn’t been explored or put on more display than what we discern in Sebastián Lelio‘s riveting “Disobedience” starring Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz and Academy Award nominee Rachel McAdams.  It’s astounding performances, and complex themes flirt with the dangers and beauty of love in a compassionate, lucid manner.  Broken from the same tree from which that “Novitiate” was grown, “Disobedience” is a compelling and wholly engaging piece of cinema.

The film tells the story of a woman named Ronit (Weisz) who returns to the community that shunned her for her attraction to a childhood friend Esti (McAdams).  Once back, their passions reignite as they explore the boundaries of faith and sexuality.

Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz, who both co-adapt the film from the novel by Naomi Alderman, find the connection between the real and the unquestionably exhausting fantasy of where we are supposed to be in this world.  It’s a very human tale in which the audience is forced to challenge its notions of sexual identity and love.

Unsure what sauce Rachel McAdams has been sipping since her Oscar nomination for “Spotlight” in 2015 but the actress had found her hinted mojo that we saw when she emerged onto the scene fourteen years ago with “The Notebook” and “Mean Girls.”  She taps into the universal anxieties regarding an examination of one’s self while still simmering in a stunning atmosphere that features eye-catching visuals. McAdams may very well be on her way to her second Oscar nomination, and it wouldn’t be underserved.  Esti is heartened and reserved but explores ranges that are both delicate and voluptuous.

Rachel Weisz, who also serves as a producer, is just continuing to remind us that we are sleeping on the small yet large fact, that she is one of our generation’s greatest working actresses and we don’t praise her enough.  Slipped out of our minds following her Oscar win for “The Constant Gardener” in 2005, Weisz demonstrates that she is so enraptured by the structure of Ronit that the words flow from her like smooth pain.  She adheres to the Hollywood familiarity of a movie star while still “deglaming” the sheer existence of her former self.

The wonderful Alessandro Nivola, who we don’t get enough of, is downright superb.  His pain, ache, and anguish of a man attempting to reconcile his own identity in connection with his wife are extraordinary.

The value of artistry can’t be underestimated as the torment that is captured is sculpted from love herself.  You can swoon, longing for more glances and gestures that speak multiple volumes between these characters.  As we saw in films like “Blue is the Warmest Color,” which may be a natural comparison, it reiterates the falsehood in which that foreign film presents lesbian and love mirrored with the exploration, passion, and complexity that is demonstrated in Lelio’s treasure. A beautiful, dizzyingly romantic love story that just about anyone can connect.

Disobedience” packs a punch and not one that you are fully expecting.  Lelio’s smooth directing palette is a welcomed addition to our cinematic year and one that should be admired by anyone who comes into contact.

“Disobedience” is playing at the Tribeca Film Festival, is distributed by Bleecker Street and opens in theaters on April 27.

GRADE: (★★★★)