Director and co-writer Sebastián Leilo’s story of a black sheep’s return to the pen (though not the fold) hits three notes of a religious chord: faith rejected, faith endured, and faith tested. The first sounds clean and clear, embodied with captivating grace and power by Rachel Weisz as a rabbi’s daughter who goes home to her orthodox community to mourn his passing. The second wobbles only a little, as Rachel McAdams plays Weisz’s way-back-when lover, the suffering soul who chose community over desire. But the third — Alessandro Nivola as the pair’s childhood friend, now married to McAdams and looking to succeed Weisz’s dead dad as rabbi — is sadly neglected, to the point of sounding false. The film gets the exterior structures of religion, and even gets the idea of belief, but fails to grasp its content. Humanity’s glory may lie in its power to accept or reject its maker, but choice relies on understanding. Otherwise, as the film is careful to note at the outset, it’s just animal instinct. Of course, such considerations are easy to overlook when a decade’s worth of repressed sexuality is bubbling over.
Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes