Quick Review 4.5 stars The scene with the Rabbi singing is worth the cost of admission alone. I’ve already bought the soundtrack. Early twenties Dovidl is played by Jonah Hauer-King who is slated to play Prince Eric in the live action Little Mermaid and reminds me of Jonathan Crombie ala Anne of Green Gables. *dreamy sigh* The characters are human, so human, which is often difficult to pull off in historical fiction. It is another not-happy movie, but given the times we are in, needs to be seen by everyone old enough. I don’t care if it’s a school night, if it’s playing near you, go see it.
Long Review: Tim Roth, who plays Martin, is the perfect British do-gooder. His dogged pursuit of his once brother turned ghost is the sort of heroic, masculine figure that so often gets thrown out with the bathwater these days.
The boys who play, well, the boys: Misha Handley (Martin) and Luke Doyle (Dovidl) are adorable and believable and obnoxious all at once as most boys that age are. I hope to see them often in the future.
And now for a little controversy: Clive Owen is not a believable Orthodox Jew. He’s just not. I’ve seen him too often playing insincere, sappy, ridiculous characters that while they show his range make it hard for me to take him seriously in this role. And that may be my fault, as I can’t unhear him saying that he was in a fireman’s calendar, “Wanna see?” (Words and Pictures, 2013) and him sensually scenting a piece of raw tobacco in the presence of Queen Elizabeth touting it as, “Very stimulating.”
This goes to a point I think I make on the frequent, but casting matters. Some actors, while awesome in other capacities, and very capable in many ways, just don’t fit certain roles well, either because they bring too much of their previous careers with them, have made themselves too much of a personality outside of their acting, or just don’t embody the character. I understand that sometimes a name can have a huge draw, but Clive Owen’s name isn’t worth throwing the audience out of the immersion of this story.
I do like that Dovidl’s character is a person. Jaded by pain and hardship, floundering in his early twenties like so many of us, and so stinking arrogant about his own genius. Even as he tries to mend his spiritual wandering, and make peace with the death of his family in Poland, he harms the people around him without a thought of what his sudden disappearance would do to the family who had made him one of their own.
I also like the way, throughout the film, that Martin is Dovidl’s oft ignored shoulder angel. They start as thorns in each other’s sides, stay that way most of the film, and then grant each other peace through their removal.
Come for the music, stay for Martin’s quest and the end results. The Song of Names will become a touchstone of what it means to learn, hurt, and heal in the spiritual traditions we are given and the ones we choose.
Until next time, enjoy the show.