The Movie Waffler Tribeca Film Festival 2024 Review - COME CLOSER | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca Film Festival 2024 Review - COME CLOSER

Come Closer review
A grieving young woman embarks on a relationship with her late brother's girlfriend.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Tom Nesher

Starring: Lia Elalouf, Darya Rosenn, Netta Garti, Jacob Zada Daniel, Shlomi Shaban, Ido Tako

Come Closer poster

Were it not for current geopolitics, you might make a case for writer/director Tom Nesher's feature debut Come Closer introducing the world to a future global star in its lead actress Lia Elalouf. She delivers one of the most remarkable debut performances of the past couple of decades and oozes that indefinable star quality that so few performers are blessed with. And it doesn't hurt that she could be mistaken for Dua Lipa's hotter sister. Unfortunately for Elalouf, and indeed for global audiences, it's unlikely any Hollywood casting directors will want the negative press of working with an Israeli actress at this moment.

Elalouf plays Eden, a hard-partying Tel Aviv It Girl who seems to have no worries in life and no job to get in the way of her socialising. She's the sort of dangerously attractive young woman any young man, and a lot of young women, would throw themselves in front of a train for. Aside from her parents' divorce, it doesn't seem as if Eden has ever had any trouble in her life. That all changes when her slightly younger brother Nati (Ido Tako) sneaks away from the surprise beach birthday party Eden threw for him, only to be hit by a car, resulting in his subsequent death in hospital.

Come Closer review

At the funeral Eden notices a grieving teenage girl whom she doesn't recognise; nor can any of her friends identify her. Before Eden can inquire further, the young girl departs. Later Eden goes through her brother's room and finds nude sketches of the same girl, along with a love note signed by a "Maya". Trawling through Nati's Facebook friends, Eden tracks down the mysterious Maya (Daria Rosen) at the bowling alley where she works. Maya is mortified and tries to avoid a confrontation but Eden is waiting outside when her shift ends. At first Eden is contemptuous, filled with rage at Maya for sharing and in her eyes, dividing, the love she had for her brother, and at Nati for keeping a secret from her. But Eden's somewhat unstable behaviour gives us clues as to why her brother might have kept Maya's existence a secret.

Dumped by the married nightclub owner she was having an affair with, likely because he only sees Eden getting messier in the wake of her brother's passing, Eden decides to switch her attention to Maya. Hesitant at first, Maya embraces Eden's gestures of friendship and the two quickly become BFFs. But when Eden kisses Maya, their relationship begins to take a series of complicated turns.

Come Closer review

With some skillfully obscurant storytelling, Nesher keeps us on our toes as we try to figure out what sort of movie we're really watching. Is it simply a lesbian romance about two young women being drawn together and finding something positive in the wake of tragedy? Or is it something much darker, closer to a psychological thriller? We're never quite sure about Eden's motivations for entering a relationship with Maya. Is she genuinely in love with Maya or is she cruelly manipulating her late brother's girlfriend, setting her up for some sadistic punishment? Is Maya really in love with Eden or is it a naive way of keeping Nati alive in her heart? Is this indeed the case with Eden? At any given point in the narrative all of the above questions might be answered in the affirmative. The two young women are so deeply confused that neither of them could provide an answer themselves.

What makes Come Closer so compelling is that we know Eden and Maya's relationship is a terrible endeavour built on dubious foundations, but we want it to succeed nonetheless. More judgemental viewers might dismiss Eden and Maya as a pair of sickos whose behaviour represents the most offensive way to memorialise the loss of their sibling and lover, but there's no correct way to grieve. Nati is gone, while Eden and Maya are still here, and the film wilfully indulges in this idea of letting the dead go with some daringly risque jokes at the expense of Holocaust victims, the sort only an Israeli movie could get away with.

Come Closer review

But we really want Eden and Maya to succeed because of the chemistry between the two exceptional young performers who embody these messy girls. It's remarkable that both Elalouf and Rosen are making their feature debuts here given how much depth and nuance they manage to add to their characters. Elalouf has the more showy role and dominates every shot she's in with her sheer magnetism, but Rosen is also excellent in perhaps a more difficult role based on quiet hesitancy.

Nesher's film is semi-autobiographical, inspired by the passing of her own brother at a young age. Eden's behaviour is so odd and distinctive in points that it could only be rooted in an artist's real experience. There's a striking scene in which Eden puts on a pair of her dead brother's boxer shorts and puts a finger down her crotch while covering her breasts in a bizarre attempt to bring his image back through her own reflection. She then piles on multiple layers of her bother's clothes until she resembles something close to the Michelin man. It's the sort of behaviour you usually only see deranged serial killers indulge in when it comes to the movies, but it all feels incredibly, painfully real. Eden's manner of grieving is certainly unconventional and arguably distasteful, but it no doubt comes from a genuine place of deep hurt and lost love. Nesher dares to make her protagonist narcissistic and practically sociopathic at points, but Eden is always profoundly human, and Elalouf does a striking job of ensuring we never forget it.

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