I'm glad I ignored them and looked to see what the film was about rather than leap on the bandwagon, because otherwise I would have missed a beautiful and touching film which is nothing about the situation between Israel and Palestine, and is much more personal and emotionally revealing film. Indeed if it weren't for the language in the film you'd have no idea it was anything to do with Israel.
So my advice is to ignore the negative associations with this film and watch it, you won't regret it.
Surrogate is a beautiful film, and the more I think about it the more I'd like to see it again, and I'm really not just saying that for the aforementioned reasons, I'm saying it because I do think it's a touching film that effectively creates the characters and the relationships and makes you believe in them.
The film doesn't over tell the story and shows you very little about some of the story, leaving the audience to pick up on them and discover the story for themselves. It doesn't try to over explain the story, the background and the connecting threads, it shows you the people affected by them and what happens to them because of these events and lets you make those connections. In short it tells a story and treats the audience with a huge degree of intelligence, something we don't see in a lot of films these days.
The relationship between Eily, played by Amir Wolf, and his surrogate Hagar, played by Lana Ettinger, is beautiful to watch develop, although it does seem to take a sudden leap towards it's final stage and seems like it could have had at least one more scene to move it towards this stage. It's still beautifully done though and some of the moments between the two are incredibly intimate although you never feel that you are imposing or that the scenes are in any way sleazy, just very touching and emotionally strong.
Going back to that moment where the relationship seems to leap quite quickly forward, even this moment is done well and shown with a moment that connects back to a previous comment that Hagar makes early on in the film when she discusses the rules of the relationship, again it makes the film subtle and credits the audience with the intelligence to follow it.
Both actor and actress perform their roles wonderfully. Amir Wolf really holds back and gives the feeling that he's struggling with something more inside him, something underlying that is seeping into his relationships, particularly with his mother, and explodes forth just when the story needs it to.
Sometimes this feeling comes out as a little unnerving, as it does with his nephew. The sequence where Eily is asking the boy about the lift he received from an unknown man becomes very touching and moving, as well as being very revealing. It's a strongly written and acted moment, and once again the film-makers keep the moments from telling too much.
Ettinger gives a strong and commanding performance that seems filled with genuine care and emotion, and come the end of the film a deep sadness, but always with a clear understanding of what this relationship is.
The ending is a superb way to tell the story and move it onto the next chapter, again without over telling the story. It's powerful, emotional and very real, again really well written and brought to the screen.
Tali Shalom-Ezer has written and directed a beautiful and touching film that has stayed with me long after I first saw it, indeed it has stayed with me passed many other films in the festival, and for good reason too.
Moving, touching, and thought provoking, it does this all with great storytelling style, without over telling the story or under selling it, letting it be told through the characters.
This is a film about people, relationships and emotion, and take away the writing on the signs and the language the characters are speaking and this is a tale that could be told anywhere as is, this isn't political, it's about human emotion.
I'd recommend this film to everyone, especially those who have preconceptions about the film based on everything but the film.