Little Jerusalem concerns Laura and her older sister Mathilde, who could not be more different.
The sisters are part of an Orthodox Jewish family living in Sarcelles, a suburb of Paris known as Little Jerusalem.
Laura (Fanny Valette) is a student of philosophy, strong-willed, rebellious and convinced that the mind and reason control all else. Laura is far less observant than everyone else in her religious family, and that is a source of conflict. Her old-fashioned mother hopes she’ll fall in love with Eric, a Jewish medical student, but Laura has no time for love or passion.
There is one man she’s attracted to, but he is a Muslim.
Laura’s older sister Mathilde (Elsa Zylberstein) is a very religious wife and mother with four children. Mathilde is convinced that faith is all her little sister Laura needs. Mathilde is also quite sure that her marriage is the solid centre of her life.
The sisters do not get along very well.
And then they both have to rethink their ideas when passion enters their lives.
Little Jerusalem is the first feature film of Karin Albou, who says she reflected upon her own adolescence while writing the script. Both Laura and Mathilde are women who have, one way or another, attempted to put desire on hold; they are both moving toward what you might call a crisis of freedom. Little Jerusalem investigates various aspects of religion, philosophy, family dynamics and faith — not your average outing at the multiplex.
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.
While the women work to understand the emotional upheaval in their lives, someone attempts to burn down the synagogue; likewise, some of the Jewish men play soccer with their children and are attacked by masked thugs. Ethnic and religious conflict are ever-present, making it impossible to be fully engaged by the details of the women’s stories.
BOTTOM LINE: Where sex and religion intersect is certainly interesting, but the lasting impression made by Little Jerusalem is that it’s hell to be an immigrant in France. You may have noticed.
(This film is rated PG)
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