The new French import The Other Son serves up a compelling gimmick with which to view a peaceful solution to Middle East violence. Like those Co-exist bumper stickers, Son sings from the “can’t we all just get along?” playbook while giving little attention to the cultural forces at play.
It still works as a unique study of two teens trying to figure out their identity, but it routinely plays up the Palestinian plight without the necessary context behind those check points and rolls of barb wire.
The film, available now on Blu-ray, tries mightily to avoid sides, stopping only briefly for talking point snippets. The story follows two families linked by one massive maternity ward error. A Jewish family learns that their son Joseph (Jules Sitruk) isn’t their biological child. In fact, he’s the child of a Palestinian woman (Areen Omari) who gave birth at the very same place on the same day during the height of the Gulf War.
The babies were switched in the chaos, and only a surprise drug test leads both families to the truth.
The respective mothers take the news with a serenity that feels genuine, while the fathers suffer in mostly silence. The teens in question strike up a tentative friendship, brought together by a shared sense of cultural disconnect.
“You mean he’s more Jewish than I am,” a confused Joseph asks his Rabbi after learning of the mixup.
The Other Son doesn’t allow for any show-stopping speeches, but the settings betray a quiet sense of imbalance. We see the check points the Palestinians endure as part of their normal life, and view their day-to-day activities as peaceful, the walls around them filled with heartfelt slogans like Free Palestine. Meanwhile, the Israelis live in relative affluence while the Palestinians endure much more harsh conditions.
The Other Son simply wants to show we’re all the same, with similar concerns about family, love and a brighter tomorrow. It’s a sweet message to impart, and the film’s heart is indeed in the right place, but its soapy tale is told from a part of the world where intractable realities need to be addressed.
The Blu-ray presentation includes a “making of” featurette describing how director Lorraine Levy felt compelled to tell this tale in the first place, deleted scenes and, surprisingly enough given the heavy material in play, a blooper reel.