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Movie review: 'The Other Son'

Posted 2:31pm on Friday, Nov. 02, 2012

PG-13 (violence, strong language, adult themes); 105 min.

During a missile attack, a hospital in Haifa is evacuated. In the chaos, two babies in the maternity ward are switched. One goes home with an Israeli couple -- a minister in the defense department and his French-born wife. The other is taken by Palestinian parents. It is not until the two children are almost 18 that the mistake is discovered.

To find out that the child you have raised is not genetically yours is a seismic enough shock -- for the parents, for the sons. Add to that the huge divide between Arab and Jew and the effects can be devastating.

Such is the situation in The Other Son, a parablelike melodrama with obvious symbolic meaning. Joseph (Jules Sitruk), the curly-headed, guitar-strumming Palestinian raised by Alon and Orith Silberg (Pascal Elbe and Emmanuelle Devos), and Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi), the Israeli by birth, raised by Said and Leila al Bezaaz (Khalifa Natour and Areen Omari) and just back from his studies in Paris, are the products of cultures and religions that are not, by birthright, theirs.

Does their education, their parenting, account for nothing? Is it right that Joseph, who had enlisted in the Israeli Air Force, is now denied service -- because his DNA says he is an Arab?

In unhurried fashion, director Lorraine Levy examines the cruel irony at play, and how respective family members react. The moment when the hospital's chief doctor reveals the catastrophic mix-up to the two sets of parents -- whom he has asked to bring photos of their sons to share -- ripples with quiet discord, disbelief and heartbreak.

In French with English subtitles.

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas

-- Steven Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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