' Cinema Romantico: CIFF Review: Off White Lies

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CIFF Review: Off White Lies

As a thirteen year old of divorce, leaving your mother to permanently live with your father is a choice, I imagine, of great agony. But imagine if you were not simply moving across town. Imagine if you were moving from California all the way back to your birth land of Israel. That would mean even greater agony, right? But that’s not all. Imagine if upon arrival in Israel your dad packs you up in the car and says you’re taking a trip north. And that this car isn’t really his car – he’s just borrowing the car – because he can’t afford a car. And that you’re taking a trip up north because he’s “between homes” because he can’t really afford a home. That’s, like, a double decker of agony. But that’s still not all. Imagine if on this trip you’re taking up north the Hezbollah decide to launch an attack and so you spend your first night in your new “home” in a bomb shelter.


The thirteen year old is Libi (Elya Inbar). She is withdrawn, partially because of this life upheaval but partially, it seems, because this is her personality. Her father Shaul (Ger Bentwich), however, is demonstrative almost to a fault, fancying himself an “inventor.” His latest invention involves a device that sucks up cigarette smoke thereby allowing you to get your fix indoors. We can’t assume it will make a splash since all his other “inventions” have left him with just enough money to be “between homes.” So he decides to invent something else.

Seeing a news report detailing Israeli homes opening up to refugees from the north where the attacks are concentrated, Shaul convinces his daughter that the two of them will pose as refugees. Reluctantly, she agrees to this scheme. How long Shaul expects this ruse to last is never made clear specifically because he appears incapable of thinking that far ahead. The home in which they make their pretend refugee residence belongs to Gideon (Tzahi Grad) and Helit (Salit Achi-Miriam) who we learn have chosen an open marriage quite likely on account of that marriage’s staleness. They have a teenage son, a few years older than Libi, and this tiny subplot will factor into the story in an unfortunately expected way.

The story developments of this family feel trucked in from a more plot-heavy movie and get in the way of the more touching and behavior-driven main story of Libi and Shaul. That said, one of the most significant predicaments in these sorts of Masquerading As Someone Else stories is the inevitable outing of the masquerade, and in lesser (most) movies the outing occurs via some sort of ridiculous happenstance. “Off White Lies”, however, only APPEARS to be taking us down that road (literally) before reversing itself at the last second and nobly refusing to take the decision out of the character’s (read: Libi’s) hands.

And really, when it’s all said and done, it is Libi’s film. How can you come into your own when you’re living a lie? She acts out in her own quiet way not to demand attention but to demand that someone, anyone, just once, for the love of God, tell her the truth.

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