Rating: * * * *
Verdict: Two lumps in the throat.
This exquisite little Israeli film, a major award-winner and commercial hit in its homeland, is the latest of many movies (the Czech film Kolya and the German one Mostly Martha spring to mind) that make an adult and child unlikely and reluctant partners.
And it's as good as any of them and better than most, peopling its tightly scripted 90 minutes with richly authentic and complex characters while never letting go of its central, very compelling story.
That's the one about a Miri (Avital), a beautiful air hostess who is suddenly landed with a 6-year-old Chinese boy (Chen), the son of her immigrant housekeeper, who went out for an hour and never came back. Miri is faced with the prospect of finding the mother - no easy task since the lad doesn't speak Hebrew and she has only a cryptic clue as to her whereabouts.
All the ingredients are there for a mawkish and saccharine fairy tale but we'll have to wait until the inevitable remake for that result, because director Menahemi, who co-wrote, never lapses into sentimentality. Each scene between adult and child rings true, as the disruption caused by the youngster's presence opens up the papered-over cracks of Miri's life and of the lives of the people she lives with.
There is a piercing authenticity to the way the boy, whom Miri names Noodle, melts her heart - a tender scene in which he looks at the photos on her wall explains much - and the relationship as it develops packs quite an emotional wallop: it becomes, in short, the story of a woman who has to drop the conviction that her life is just a series of bad things happening.
The story has a couple of holes - including one that rather misrepresents the national airline El Al's legendary security procedures - and thexre's at least one convenient coincidence too many, but Menahemi makes the contrivances work because she's got us cheering her on. And there's an edge-of-the-seat climax with a payoff to die for. A real delight.
Cast: Mili Avital, BaoQi Chen, Alon Abutbul, Anat Waxman, Yiftach Klein
Director: Ayelet Menahemi
Running time: 90 mins
Rating: PG In Hebrew and Mandarin with English subtitles