Or (My Treasure)

The winner of the 2004 Camera D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival is a bleak and depressing affair. Yet that is exactly what writer/director Keren Yedaya wanted for Or (My Treasure). It's a strong film for a first feature, sometimes light on plot but heavy on emotions. The beginning of the story finds teenager Or (Dana Igvy, Broken Wings, Beitar Provence) taking her mother Ruthie (Ronit Elkabetz, Alila, Late Marriage) home from the hospital. Ruthie wants to go out, but Or is adamant that she stays home, going as far as to block the door and take the keys.

It's soon clear why. Ruthie is a prostitute. She walks the streets because it is the only way she can make money, and although Or found her a job as cleaning houses, the lure of easy fast money is too tempting. There is a reversal in the mother/daughter relationship as Or is the one constantly looking out for her mother. She cooks, cleans, works, and goes to school (similar to the recent Pure). Yedaya is pretty sparse with dialogue, having her characters say the bare minimum. There is a minimalist feel at times to Or, giving the film a realistic, stark feeling. Every time she comes home she worries about whether her mom is home or not. Her mother is the child, who sits around watching television during the day, and tries to go out at night. Although Ruthie promised Or not to hook anymore, Or is too smart (or cynical) to believe her.

Igvy (also good in Broken Wings) and Elkabetz both give heartbreaking performances. Although she is sixteen, Or has no concept of what it is to be a teenager. Her life is a dreary routine, and Yedaya shows how mind numbing it can be. She walks lifelessly to her school and her job, then goes home to tend to her mother. Igvy is forced to act beyond her years, and it is slowly taking a toll on her. The only time she seems to act her age is at school with her friends, or when she's around her neighbor Ido (Meshar Cohen), a cute boy she has known for years.

Elkabetz is just the opposite. She is childish, needy, and lazy. She is a prostitute both for money and for the attention the men lavish on her, even though there are sometimes horrific consequences. It is extremely easy to detest her character for what she is doing to her daughter, and how she refuses to change for the better. There is very little emotion in the story; Or and Ruthie are emotionally detached from nearly everything around them. When Or finally experiences something good, things actually get worse, setting off a chain of events that brings Or to a powerful low point. Yedaya is showing how hard it is to resist the lure of money, and how things can sometimes move in a vicious circle. It's not how many people would choose to end a film, but it is effective.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Not Rated but contains language, nudity, and sexual situations, an R.

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