Review: ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ is Illuminated by Portman

David Stehman ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Natalie Portman is one of the best acting powerhouses in Hollywood. Look no further than her Oscar-winning role in Black Swan to see just how enthralling her talent is. But thanks to her newest film, A Tale of Love and Darkness, she has evolved into something that many actors have done with few succeeding: a triple threat. Yes, Natalie Portman is a great writer and director.

A Tale of Love and Darkness follows Amos (Amir Tessler), a child living his boyhood days in Post-WWII Jerusalem with his mother Fania (Portman) and father Arieh (Gilad Kahana), following their experiences at the beginning of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Amos and Fania struggle to maintain their dreamlike innocence before and after the war.

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Natalie Portman and Amir Tessler in A Tale of Love and Darkness. Photo Credit: Focus World.

Portman’s Fania is played with more subtlety than her turn in Black Swan, but her sensitive performance keeps the view grounded in hope during the chaotic conflict. But it’s her writing and direction that shine most in the film. Her script is very well paced, and with enough allusions to the subtext without amateurish exposition or on-the-nose symbolism. Her script also does a tremendous job not choosing sides in the still-ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, she portrays the conflict quite fairly by briefly and appropriately explaining both sides’ views on the conflict.

On the directing standpoint, Portman surprises with her use of artistry without seeming like an overly-ambitious film student. Visual symbolism, fantasy sequences, and use slow-motion and focus tricks all fit the tone of the film, and in fact pay off greatly in the finale. She also brings out great performances from the cast, especially young Amir Tessler, who carries the film just as well as Jacob Tremblay from Room.

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Natalie Portman in A Tale of Love and Darkness. Photo Credit: Focus World.

A Tale of Love and Darkness is certainly Natalie Portman’s passion project. Her adaptation of Amos Oz’s memoir shines with artistry and subtlety, showing Hollywood that she can be a strong contender in the directing world. Let’s hope her next feature has the potential her first film promises.

Overall Grade: A

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