The Other Son

Directed By: Lorraine Lévy

Starring: Emmanuelle Devos, Pascal Elbé, Jules Sitruk, Mehdi Dehbi, Areen Omari, Khalifa Natour, and Mahmud Shalaby

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a touchy subject to say the least, and there have probably been a thousand movies bringing this controversial subject to light.  Most probably think of Steven Spielberg's Munich as the most prominent film on the topic.  Others probably think of the documentary Waltz With Bashir.  None are more creative than this year's French drama The Other Son.

Now that he's about to turn 18, Israeli Joseph Sillberg (Jules Sitruk) is getting ready to enlist in the military.  With his father Alon (Pascal Elbé) serving as a colonel in the armed forces and all his friends enlisting, it just makes sense.  When his mother Orith (Emmanuelle Devos) is reviewing some blood work done on her son in preparation for his enlistment, she notices something that's impossible.  Joseph has A-positive blood despite the fact that both she and her husband have A-negative blood.  Her investigation of the matter leads her to the unfathomable.

On the day Joseph was born, another boy by the name of Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi) was born in the same hospital.  When there was an attack on the hospital, the nurse taking care of both newborns mistakenly gave Joseph to Yacine's family and vice versa.  Because the two boys were switched at birth, Joseph is not really Joseph.  He's Yacine.  His parents are not Alon and Orith.  They're Saïd and Leïla Al Bezaaz (Areen Omari and Khalifa Natour).  He's not a Jew.  He's an Arab.  With all this in mind, there's only one other person who understands Joseph's unique situation, the other son Yacine.

The Other Son takes the switched at birth storyline to a whole new level.  There's naturally an identity crisis on the part of the two children switched and a host of familial issues that develop overnight.  However, there's a whole new layer of complexity given that one family is Jewish and the other is Arab.  Joseph is no longer a Jew, but he still feels like a Jew.  Similarly, Yacine is no longer an Arab, but he still feels like an Arab.  The religious, social, and political implications of this are something so immense that it goes far beyond just these two boys.  Nonetheless, director Lorraine Lévy keeps this struggle by each son at an intensely personal level.

While The Other Son is an intelligent, piercing film that digs into the modern social issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a very unique way, it's a surprisingly heartfelt film because these two families have to overcome some serious political and cultural barriers.  Joseph and Yacine, these sons of Abraham, find a common bond and actually demonstrate this.  Whether selling ice cream on the beaches of Tel Aviv or commiserating about their situation together, these two share a common bond regardless of their background.

The Other Son is a powerful family drama fueled by strong performances from the cast, smart direction by Lorraine Lévy, and an engaging, controversial topic.  Lévy combines a lot of heart with considerable practicality to put together this gripping movie.  Grab a couple of wine coolers because The Other Son gets a strong 0.03% rating.  No matter who you are, you'll need subtitles with this one.  They break out French, English, Hebrew, and Arabic during this flick.