In the new film from Film Movement, there’s Isaac the older brother and Alex the younger brother. The younger brother deals drugs but can’t seem to get ahead, because the older brother is just so messed up that he’s always needing money to get out of one financial bind after another. Such is the life of Alex, in the movie Aliyah, which is the term for Jews immigrating to Israel.
Alex, played by Pio Marmaï, is 27 years old, lives in a working-class neighborhood in Paris and has a great clientele to whom he sells drugs. Isaac is played by Cedric Kahn, who is a writer/director/teacher, who took a break from his normal responsibilities to star in this critically-acclaimed French crime drama. Aliyah just pulled at my heart strings, because Alex seemed so vulnerable to me, after having lost his mother, and having a total screw up for an older brother and a father who would just as well not have much to do with him. Alex runs into his cousin at a party, and the cousin, who has just served in the military in Israel, shares his plan to open a restaurant in Tel Aviv. He urges Alex to relocate, since he feels that he is just wasting his time in Paris.
But then enters Jeanne, played by Adèle Haenel, a beautiful woman who just happens to be a friend of Alex’s ex-girlfriend, Esther. Her character adds a gentle, unassuming influence on Alex, for which he didn’t bargain.
Alex always seems sad, even though business is booming and he goes to one party after another. I don’t know why he risks his freedom by selling drugs, because he doesn’t do much with the income but loan it out to his brother. However, once he decides that he is leaving Paris, he stashes the money in hopes of saving enough for the move. He enrolls in classes to learn Hebrew and to prepare him for the move to Israel, all the while exploring a new relationship with Jeanne.
I simply adore Film Movement films, because the story lines, imagery and cinematography make them always seem too irresistible to watch. In director Elie Wajeman’s words, the film is “is at once a thriller, a film about family, about a new beginning (in Israel) and about feelings, either between brothers, friends or lovers. This mixture of genres is deliberate.”
Alex loves his brother Isaac, but he is also consumed with the idea of starting a new life, free of the drug element, in Israel. And while his bond with his brother is strong, Isaac, who is married, cheating on his wife and strung out on drugs, just keeps pushing the envelope and causes Alex to reflect on reality—not what how he wishes life would be. However, Alex does have a good friend, Mathias, in his corner, who is urging him to get out of Paris and what he sees could, as well, become a destructive environment for Alex.
The only good thing that has happened to Alex is the new relationship with Jeanne, but this is also wearing on him, as he must make a decision to chuck it all and start anew. He is not only leaving the people to whom he is close but his beautiful city, Paris.
Aliyah, which premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival’s Director’s Fortnight sidebar, opens in New York on June 14, followed by a limited theatrical release in other cities.