Little Jerusalem (2006)
An orthodox Jewish teen living with her family in France attempts to balance her religious upbringing with her increasingly complex view of the outside world in director Karin Albou's incisive meditation on religion, philosophy, and the weight of romance on the mind of a growing girl. Eighteen-year-old student Laura (Fanny Valette) lives with her widowed mother (Sonia Tahar), her sister (Elsa Zylberstein), and her brother-in-law (Bruno Todeschini) in the suburban Paris neighborhood of Sarcelles. Though her exposure to the world thus far has been culturally limited due to the fact that her family resides in a neighborhood is often referred to as "Little Jerusalem" due to its large Jewish population, Laura's studies have told her that the world is full of interesting and diverse people. An overly serious and self-disciplined girl whose outward maturity defies her youthful age, Laura vows to avoid romance before finding that fate doesn't always play by the rules. … More
as The Mother
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as Djamel's Uncle
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Critic Reviews for Little Jerusalem
This beautiful tale of two sisters living in Sarcelles, a low-income Parisian suburb of mostly new immigrants, presents the darker side of religion while offering a candid view of an Orthodox Jewish family struggling to stay together.
The film, which means well in its attempt to touch on Kantian philosophy, racial divides, sex and orthodoxy, and secularism versus religion, manages to insult each one of these heavy subjects by not giving any of them the serious, thoughtful attention the
It is a story told in small moments, the camera close-up on a look, the stroke of a hand, the way a blonde thread is revealed in a husband's jacket.
The background of Little Jerusalem is a grimy landscape, both physical and political, and it overwhelms the fragile exploration undertaken by the sisters. Or maybe that's the whole point.
Anyone shopping by the ton for melodrama is well advised to browse the ample display on view in this cinematic square.
Rich in perceptive details, Albou's film has drawn favorable comparison to the work of Claire Denis (The Intruder, Friday Night), and both directors share a sensual sensitivity to their characters' inner lives.
The grand ideas are effectively integrated into a drama that relies equally upon the head, the heart and the body for inspiration.
It's very well-acted and directed, shot with great vigor, mostly in roaming closeups that plunge us right into the thick of things.
[If the film] is a story of escape and liberation, it also shows a calibrated respect for tradition and the ancient pull of family loyalty.
Albou is adventurous in intermixing a young woman's coming-of-age with a search for secular belief but her story is a bit shy on drama.
Even though the romance angle disappoints, the story still holds interest because of the jarring cultural differences, even between the Paris-reared daughters and their superstitious Tunisian mother.
It evaporates from your mind even while watching it.
In their separate ways, Laura and Mathilde have discovered how to shape their own destinies in a turbulent period of clashing civilizations.
Well played by Fanny Valette -- even her pallor seems to match our image of a French philosophy student -- Laura is someone worth rooting for.
It would be hard to imagine a filmmaking style as serious yet lazy as the earnest vérité bobbing and weaving employed by La Petite Jérusalem.
The best reason to watch La Petite Jerusalem is Fanny Valette, a bona-fide beauty who brings a commitment and gravity to scenes that don't always deserve them.
Beautifully played by Valette and Zylberstein, and directed with amazing grace by Albou, this touching film offers a respectful, fascinating look at a community that's ignored as often as it's misunderstood.
Albou's chosen a touchy subject, which she treats sensitively. Her mature script is complemented by heartfelt turns by Fanny Valette as Laura and Elsa Zylberstein as Mathilde.
Albou gives a traditional plot a rich sense of detail and a sensitivity to her characters.
Audience Reviews for Little Jerusalem
A quiet, thoughtful examination of sexuality and freedom within a Jewish enclave in Paris. Two sisters, who live together and work at the same day care facility, explore what it means to be modest according to their religious traditions, and still express their sexual natures. The elder, Mathilde (Elsa Zylberstein), comes at her dilemma from within the bonds of marriage, to a man who has been unfaithful, and the younger, Laura, as a teenager just beginning to struggle with her urges. Beautifully filmed, with a great deal of tenderness, this proved a most satisfying film. The actors were chosen for their physical and emotional qualities, not because of their religious affiliation, and much of the success can be attributed to that. The girls' mother is played by Sonia Tahar, a non-actor, who was a Jewish mother who answered an open casting call, and was quite a force of nature. At times, this viewer found her character to be incredibly superstitious and overbearing, but the story needed a strong matriarchal anchor, and she amply provided that.More
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