The Matchmaker Review (Kirk Haviland)

The Matchmaker (2012)

Starring Tuval Shafir, Adir Miller, Dror Keren, Bat-el Papura, Dov Navan, Maya Dagan, Tom Gal and Neta Porat

Writen and Directed by Avi Nesher, based on the novel by Amir Gutfreund

This week sees a small Israeli film that played at TIFF back in 2010, The Matchmaker, open in Toronto for a highly exclusive engagement. This coming of age story set in the backdrop of late 1960’s Israel is a little charmer that deals with a lot of serious matters under the surface but maintains a quick witted exterior to help keep the audience enthralled.

As young Arik Burstein (Shafir) is out playing and goofing around with his friends on a summer afternoon the group stumbles upon a strange man. Yankele Bride (Miller), a Romanian survivor of the Holocaust with a scarred face and a noticeable limp, is a relentless matchmaker that specializes in difficult cases. He combs the streets looking for prospects for his clients. After discovering that Yankele is a long lost friend of his father’s (Navon), Arik is hired to help research Yankele’s matchmaking candidates. Nicknamed “Spyguy”, Arik learns about the infamous low rent district frequented by sailors, gamblers, prostitutes and people looking for bootleg merchandise. Yankele has an office in back of a movie theatre that shows only love stories. It is run by a family of Romanian dwarfs, led by its matriarch, the lovelorn Sylvia (Papura). Yankele himself longs for the hand of his etiquette teacher Clara (Dagan), who is stalked and admired from afar by the town librarian Meir (Keren). Arik learns the mysteries of the human heart and falls in love himself with Tamara (Porat), his best friend Benny’s (Gal) cousin who has just returned from America full of talk of women’s right, free love and rock and roll.

The Matchmaker has a lot of heart and a smart script to back it. Never directly dealing with the Holocaust head-on yet making sure that it is never far from the viewer’s eye, Director Nesher keeps the tone light and fun while never losing sight of these people on the fringe of society desperately trying to start over. Miller is Fantastic as Yankele, his performance is the type that grabs your attention immediately and never lets you go. Shafir is good as our young lead and the supporting cast is solid, if you do not fall in love with Papura’s Sylvia you should be ashamed. And the beautiful Porat is the epitome of every teen male’s fantasy, but with a brain and opinion of her own.

The small town setting is perfect and the locations add an additional layer of authenticity as it looks barely untouched from the 60’s. This helps keep the quaint village feel, like something out of an idealized dreamy French fairy tale, alive and well and maintains the innocence of Arik’s journey while constantly keeping the past just a scratch under the surface.

A sweet little gem of a film, The Matchmaker really does try to steal your heart, and indeed it will. The Matchmaker is a solid recommend.

The Matchmaker is currently running on an exclusive engagement at Toronto’s Sheppard Grande Theater. For Showtime information click here.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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