Yuval Shafferman’s solid Things Behind the Sun regularly skirts the edge of melodrama, but thankfully never goes over the edge. The film begins with Itzhak receiving a call from the hospital telling him that his father’s condition has worsened. What follows is a multi-narrative drama focussing on the individual members of Itzhak’s family, and the varying ways in which they are affected by the illness of their estranged relative.
The different stories are told with varying results. 10 year old Didush is the most concerned with the grandfather she never knew, and Tess Hashiloni’s performance is extraordinary, somewhere between Haley Joel Osmont in The Six Sense and Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine. Sullen and softly spoken, Didush is somehow left behind as the rest of the family pursue their own crises.
Amit (Zohar Shtrauss) is in his late 20s and feeling a distinct sense of malaise, apparently unwilling to take the next step in life; Namma (Tali Sharon) is struggling to keep her personal life a secret from her family, and mother Smadi (Sandra Sade) is finally getting a shot at becoming a respected artist. It’s strange that whilst all this is going on, we don’t really get into Itzhak’s story. Assi Dayan is fairly true to life, but unfortunately fails to elicit any sort of sympathy – I was much more interested in the woes of the rest of the family.
Visually, the film is a little too clean and bare, but there are several very effective montages that beautifully sum up the stage the characters are at. Though none come close to the brilliant sequence at the beginning of Rose Troche’s The Safety of Objects, they are easily the most powerful moments of the film.
Things Behind the Sun is an effective drama, though it frustrates by leaving some of the narrative strands unfinished. To have some parts of a feature wrapped up neatly, and others left hanging, is supremely frustrating. Most importantly I wanted to know more about the taciturn Itzhak. The intention may have been to keep him unemotional and aloof, but it resulted in him seeming self-absorbed and uncaring.Rating: