A break-up with her boyfriend triggers a temporary return to the parental nest for a thirtysomething wannabe filmmaker in “She Is Coming Home” an abrasive feminist drama from debuting Israeli writer-helmer Maya Dreifuss. The idea of making a character relive and recuperate from her past experience is a bold one, but the protagonist’s conduct is so angry and so unlikable that it becomes difficult to take a rooting interest in her situation. Kudos for first feature, actress and cinematography at the recent Jerusalem fest (albeit in a weak competition lineup) should spur further fest play.
The action starts with a literal bang as the irresponsible behavior of drinking/driving/texting Michal (convincingly played as a ticking time bomb by Tali Sharon) causes an accident. After Zev (busy thesp Alon Aboutboul), a handsome older man returning from military reserve duty, hits her car from behind, he winds up driving her — along with her bags and considerable emotional baggage — to her parents’ cramped apartment in Herzliya, a Tel Aviv suburb.
It’s immediately clear that Michal and her parents have a severely dysfunctional relationship. Her ditsy mother (Liora Rivlin) drinks too much and plays passive-aggressive tricks, like putting salt in the sugar bowl and making unexpectedly cutting but on-the-nose remarks. And although it’s never spelled out, there are hints that Michal and her dad (Eli Cohen) once had an incestuous relationship.
Michal also seems to have an eating disorder that’s been exacerbated by her homecoming. Exerting some sort of perverse control, she refuses to sit down at the table with her parents to eat, but indulges in ravenous pig-outs from the fridge by night. Instead of working on her screenplay, she reverts to the behavior of a self-centered adolescent. When she’s not sleeping — or sleeping with some youth that she drunkenly drags home — she’s pursuing the married Zev, who turns out to be the principal at her former high school. Many years ago, Michal may have been a dream daughter: smart, dutiful and uncomplaining. But she now takes advantage of this return to her roots to play the rebel, acting out in every way possible.
While the feminist crowd may find it empowering the way Michal explores and takes ownership of the shameful moments that many women experience, others will lose their patience with this not-particularly-sympathetic protagonist long before the 90-minute running time is up. Still, to its credit, Dreifuss’ screenplay forces audiences to continually reconsider their feelings about all of the characters.
Edgy, in-your-face lensing by Shai Peleg captures the tense energy of the narrative and performances, while cutting by Ronit Porat doesn’t shy from the confrontational.
Dreifuss, a professor of screenwriting at Tel Aviv University, worked with lenser Peleg and editor Porat on her two Cinefondation-selected shorts: “Wax Hurts” (2001) and “Visiting Hours” (2005). Impressive thesp Sharon was the star of the latter.