Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi

Nobody thinks of Israel as a place where people make movies. Yet, in the past year, a relative flood of films, including Yossi and Jagger, Broken Wings, Holy Land, James' Journey to Jerusalem, and now Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi. These are all extremely different in tone and style, with Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi akin to an after school special mixed with a heaping of Good Will Hunting. The title character, Shlomi Bar-Dayan (Osri Cohen, Ingil) is a harried teenager, exhausted from playing mediator to the various factions in his crazy family. Shlomi is the only sane one, and horribly underappreciated.

His mother Ruhama (Esti Zakheim, Purple Lawns, Pick a Card) is prone to shouting at anybody and everybody, and still harbors much resentment against Shlomi's father Robert (Albert Iluz, Tzur Hadassim, Lick the Raspberry), thrown out after a bout of infidelity. Robert keeps trying to reconcile, but Ruhama keeps throwing him out. Shlomi is jealous of his brother (Yonatan Rozen), who is lazy around the house and keeps a journal of his sexual exploits. At school, Shlomi's girlfriend (Rotem Nissmo) wants to put a hold on their relationship, while Shlomi wants to round the bases. Shlomi's sister (Rotem Abuhab) is having her own problems with her husband, so she continually comes over, bringing her twins. And rounding out the sitcom-like family is Shlomi's grandfather (Ariah Ellis, James' Journey to Jerusalem, The Body), who may be completely insane or the only other normal one.

To cope, Shlomi cooks. He is a fabulous cook, and everybody loves the food he makes, especially a cake with stars on it. Otherwise, he is failing school and generally ignored, except when Ruhama needs somebody to shout at. Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi treads upon familiar territory, so when a beautiful girl (Aya Koren, Yossi and Jagger, Late Marriage) moves next door and expresses interest in him, things begin to look better. They go up another notch when his principal (Yigal Naor, Miss Entebbe, They Dybbuk) suspects he is extremely smart. Up to this point, his mother believed him semi-retarded. Writer/director Shemi Zarhin (Dangerous Acts, Passover Fever) does nothing out of the ordinary, except put in a little more depth to the Shlomi character, who usually reacts to those around him. The overt familiarity of all of the character types and situations balances with the fact that everything is with an Israeli context. Ruhama looks down upon Robert and his side of the family because of his Moroccan background. An American counterpart would be how a snooty New Englander thinks of somebody from the Deep South. The acting is okay and Zarhin tries to milk the emotional content for all he can, but the predictability works too hard against the film.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 34 minutes, Hebriew with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains minor nudity and language, and easy R.

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