“So, what is this thing? Man? Woman? It is a being with the power to disobey. Alone among all the creatures we have free will. We hang suspended between the clarity of the angels and the desires of the beasts.”Rav Krushka
Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s thoughtful drama, adapted from a novel by Naomi Alderman, follows Ronit as she returns to an Orthodox Jewish community in London after her estranged father’s death, stirring emotions when reunited with her childhood best friend. Ronit’s past emerges naturally from the narrative which is as much about losing a community as it is about religion and temptation. Food plays a central cultural role and we see in Rachel Weisz’s face the transportive flavours conjuring childhood memories. Disobedience takes a nuanced and restrained approach to religious trauma, directly challenging the denial of choice and freedom to those raised within rigid belief systems whilst avoiding the temptation to vilify the community itself. Alessandro Nivola is striking in his gentle supportiveness, a faithful disciple of Ronit’s father who has become a respected rabbi, yet he bristles with anger when his authority is challenged. Indeed restraint is evident throughout Disobedience, the film’s muted colour palette fitting an environment in which conflicts are rarely voiced directly. Returning to London reinforces the cost of Ronit’s escape which is losing an entire community and particularly her friend Esti. Diegetic use of The Cure’s Lovesong during a pivotal scene serves a dual purpose with the lyric “You make me feel like I am home again.” Although we experience events largely through Ronit’s perspective, it is Esti who provides the story arc as Ronit’s return forces her to grapple with her own decision to remain in the community. Disobedience may not offer the cathartic relief that some former believers might desire, but it is more meaningful as a result — it ventures beyond mere escapism to underscore the cost of that escape.