Menashe acts as both a faithful slice of life of ultra-Orthodox Judaism and an effective character drama from the perspective of a widower. The resonance is thin though, leaving the audience feeling lukewarm towards Joshua Z Weinstein’s otherwise efficient movie.
Menashe Lustig is very good as the film’s flawed lead. The construction of this character plays loosely, giving Lustig plenty of room to explore the space around him, feel through his silence, and connect to the film’s themes of matching expectations and dealing with failure. The word “loose” can actually describe the entirety of Menashe. Director/screenwriter Weinstein identifies with the life and culture around his characters. He and his co-writers Alex Lipschultz and Musa Syeed provide the motivational push, while the energy within a scene provides the momentum.
Menashe could’ve afforded to take more risks though. It’s a little disappointing watching Weinstein – who appears to be very perceptive and detail-oriented – stick to safe challenges and typical arcs. These are crowd-pleasing qualities, sure, but they often set a film on autopilot – Menashe is no different.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie