ONE WEEK AND A DAY
Director: Asaph Polonsky
Cast: Shai Avivi, Jenya Dodina, Tomer Kapon, Sharon Alexander, Carmit Mesilati Kaplan, Alona Shauloff, Uri Gavriel
Running Time: 1:38
Release Date: 4/28/17 (limited); 5/12/17 (wider)
Review by Mark Dujsik | May 11, 2017
The game plan, whether the father of a recently deceased son knows it or not, is avoidance. He could deny that fact, but even a denial would be to accept what has happened to him. The father doesn't even let himself have the chance of denying it. Whenever the subject of his son comes up in One Week and a Day, he changes the conversation with a fairly direct "Shut up."
Eyal (Shai Avivi) and Vicky Spivak's (Jenya Dodina) son has died. The funeral was a week ago, and the customary sitting of shiva comes to an end at the film's start. Eyal spends the last part of the custom playing table tennis with a group of kids in the basement of his home. He's playing rather violently, considering his opponents—hitting one kid in the eye with the ball before asking if there are any other takers. When some neighbors arrive with a bowl of salad, Eyal dismisses them, since they couldn't be bothered to come before shiva ended. At the first opportunity, he tosses the salad in the garbage—bowl and all.
There's to be a visitation of the grave. Vicky is heading there, but Eyal insists that he'd rather clean up around the house. Family members and friends leave, and Eyal sits in a chair, alone with his thoughts in the complete silence of the house. That lasts for less than 10 seconds before he gets up to do something—anything, really.
His destination seems like an unlikely choice, considering his mindset, but then again, his son is no longer at the hospice where he spent his final days. Someone else is lying in the bed where his son was, and before leaving, after being unsuccessful in finding a blanket that they left behind, he asks if the patient—a fairly young person with cancer—needs anything. He takes the person's hand, too, because there's no one else in the room to do it.
He doesn't find the blanket, but he does find a bag of medical cannabis. It was his son's, and now, he argues, he has inherited it.
Despite the background of how Eyal ends up in this position, writer/director Asaph Polonsky's film is a comedy based around the idea of trying—and routinely failing—to escape. It's an honest premise that plays out with a certain amount of absurdity.
Both parents have their own ways of trying to escape the reality that they now face. Vicky insists that she will return to work as an elementary school teacher, only to discover that the substitute teacher is still in her classroom. She didn't inform the principal, so her return will have to be delayed by a day.
Vicky also has a dentist appointment, which she forgets about but then quite authoritatively demands that the clinic honor when she arrives late. It didn't mean enough to her to remember it, but now that she has a chance to do something on her unexpected day off, Vicky is going to make sure that she does it.
For his part, Eyal decides to spend the day smoking the cannabis. He has never done so before, which leads to a montage of his ridiculous efforts to try to roll a joint—first with the weed inside it, then with just the paper, finally with a gummy worm as an impromptu mold.
In defeated desperation, he call upon Zooler (Tomer Kapon), the unambitious adult son of those irritating neighbors with the salad, for help. Zooler was friends with Eyal's son until their three-year age difference made Zooler's friendship with a kid in elementary school uncool. Eyal resents Zooler's parents for slowly abandoning them once his son became ill, so he can't immediately realize that Zooler is here for him now, when he really needs the company.
There's an underlying warmth to all of this, which gradually but continually rises to the surface. That feeling is, to an extent, a reflection of Eyal's ability to confront what has happened and to determine what how he will deal with it. The focus on that character, unfortunately, leaves Vicky's own grieving process off to the side, as she tries to readjust to a routine that isn't there for her at the moment. Even though it's easy enough to understand the connection between her attempts to avoid her son's death and Eyal's attempts on a theoretical level, Vicky's scenes seem strangely disconnected from the central point of the film.
The process of Eyal's opening up is the heart of the film, though, and Polonsky offers a delicate balance of emotional insight and humor. The film's climax involves Eyal racing to reserve two funeral plots—for himself and his wife—next to his son's grave. There's a fascinating and heartbreaking diversion in this section, which randomly follows a day in the life of a complete stranger (played by Uri Gavriel), whom Eyal and Zooler see giving a eulogy for his recently deceased sister. It's a sequence with a point that's clear but difficult to put into words (Broadly, it's about the universality of grief and the absurdity of the constant obstacles life throws at us—represented for the stranger by bird droppings on his windshield—to truly get through it), but its emotional impact is undeniable.
Polonsky's debut feature is a strong one—a comfortable comedy mixed with unavoidable truths about grief. One Week and a Day is about the small steps, with the possibility of a smile being the biggest step these characters can make.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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