Tehilim (Pslams)

Cannes Film Fest 2007 (Competition)“Tehilim” (“Psalms”), one of three Israeli movies shown in the Cannes Film Fest (the other two were “Meduzot” (“Jellyfish”) and “The Band's Visit,” is arguably the weakest, and unfortunately it gains a spot in the prestigious Competition, which made its shortcomings all the more apparent. Thus, theatrical prospects for Raphael Nadjari's dull family melodrama are dim.

It would be easy to dismiss the film as a frustrating narrative that begins well but dramatically goes nowhere, but in fairness to the creators, here is a more detailed description.

Set in Jerusalem, the tale revolves around a strict, religious man, his wife, and his two sons. When first seen, Eli (Shmuel Vilojni) seems to be a happily married and a good responsible father. There are tensions in his union with wife Alma (Limor Goldstein), who's less devout than he is, raising a concern among Eli's family.

Elder son Menachem (Michael Moshonov) obeys his father and attends regularly biblical study groups, supervised by his grandfather Shmuel (Ilan Dar), an even more conservative and stern man than Eli.

One day, while father and son are driving, Eli loses control and gets into an accident, in which David (Yonathan Alster), his other son, is injured. When the paramedics showed up, the older man is gone. Rest of the saga depicts the impact of the absent father on his wife, his children, and the rest of the family.

We wait in vain for some clues to the mysterious disappearance of a seemingly balanced man, which are never disclosed, only to realize that the traumatic event is used as an excuse (or premise) for the examination of one family in a state of emotional turmoil and religious crisis.

The film's situation in a politically volatile country like Israel is quite credible, but Nadjari drops the central plot element and instead offers a dual coming-of age saga of the two brothers, with all the rituals involved, including first love.

Main conflict prevails between the rigid grandfather, who insists that Eli's house becomes a house of prayer, with an open-door policy–anyone who wishes to come and pray is more than welcomeand his grieving daughter in law, who tries to maintain some modicum of normal existence and private life.

A later subplot, in which the siblings steal Bibles from their uncle in order to distribute them for free on the streets of Jerusalem, feels contrived and unconvincing.