Directed by Sebastián Lelio (2017)
by Sandy DeVito
Disobedience concerns two Orthodox Jewish women coming from very different adult lives; having conducted an illicit affair with one another in their youth that was subsequently torn apart by Ronit's (Rachel Weisz) rabbi father, she and Esti (Rachel McAdams) are reunited when Ronit’s father dies unexpectedly and she returns for his funeral, having left and estranged herself from the Jewish church for years. Esti is now married to their childhood friend Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), causing a tumultuous jumble of unresolved emotions between the trio.
I feel torn, for though a man delivers the final monologue of the film, illuminating its goals and purpose, and a man directed this film - and heaven knows we women have heard enough from men to last us for all the centuries - I know in my heart that we, as women, need men to help us in our objective. That objective is overcoming the rotting old ways that toxic masculinity, masculine theology, and patriarchy have pressed upon us. That objective is to be free. How can we be free when man's thumb presses so upon us? Men must work to lift themselves from us. Their crushing weight, so constantly applied, must be relieved.
The truth is, a man will never know what it's like to be a woman in love with a woman, no more than a woman can understand what it's like to be a man in love with another man, but a man can care that two women love each other, and do everything in his power, despite his own heartache or desire, to help them when he can see the truth. I just don't think some things are perceptible for people who have not lived a certain kind of experience. Sympathy is key, however. Empathy cannot really be taught - I've always believed this, and I believe it still. To know is to know and to want to know is not the same as knowing. But wanting to know has its nobility, too. Wanting to know will always make you better. Curiosity, or sympathy, or hope, perhaps, you may call it. Wanting to do what is best for someone you love, even if you can't understand what it's like to be them (wanting to understand does not simply make it so, our kind learns this lesson again and again), is the highest aspiration of humanity. If they tell you what they need, and you can give it to them, if you love them, you must.
Using The Cure's Lovesong is a moment when the trappings of the film (the otherwise somewhat prodding score, the coldness of the editing) became more real for me; passion that sometimes failed to manifest in the rest of the story came flooding through me:
“however far away, I will always love you / however long I stay, I will always love you / whatever words I say, I will always love you / I will always love you”
the ardent, fervent prayer, not to any god, but to time itself, cutting through all pretense (wigs, old songs, strict clothing, strict lovemaking) to the inner self, the hidden soul, the only truth, real love, the only thing that matters. The old things: we can't forget them, because to forget them is to repeat their mistakes, their restraints, the ties that bind and stifle and prevent joy. I'm still not convinced this is a man's story to tell, but if he must tell it, it must be told with all the sympathy he can muster in his soul; he must accept that perhaps his place is not what it once was, maybe it was never what he was told by old fathers bent by old laws, and his true role will be something new, something that we have not yet written. But we will write it. This time, we will all write it together.
On a personal note: this past year I became truly comfortable with the fact that I'm bisexual. In the past I would often write off my attraction to other women as a superficial one because I was only attracted to specific women, and I never tried to date a woman in earnest when I was single, and I love my cismale partner of seven years very much and do not have a desire to open our relationship at this point. Then again, I realized, I've only ever been attracted to specific men. Sexuality isn't wanting to fuck an entire gender, at least, not to me. It's wanting to fuck who you want to fuck. But seeing films that speak to me in ways films from my youth were never able is always a blossom of relief in the pit of my gut. We'll get there. In time, we'll get there. I'm sure of it, even if I won't be here to really see the fruit of the labor our art is finally committed to.