‘Shoelaces’ Review: A Moving Israeli Film about a Father and His Special-Needs Son

Shoelaces Review

Shoelaces (having played in Israel under the name Laces) is a Hebrew-language film from director Jacob Goldwasser that was recently up for eight awards from the Israeli Academy Awards, winning one for Doval’e Glickman’s performance. This was a passion project for Goldwasser as he has a special-needs child of his own.

Shoelaces Review: An Introduction

Ruven (Doval’e Glickman) is a gruff, sixty-year-old man who owns a small auto repair shop in Tel Aviv. He was once married but has long been divorced. When his wife gave birth, the couple found out that their son Gadi (Nevo Kimchi) had special needs. Ruven and his wife eventually split up, with Ruven’s wife and Gadi moving out of town. One day Ruven gets a phone call telling him that his ex-wife has died. He goes to the funeral and finds out from a social worker, named Ilana (Evelin Hagoel) that he has to take in Gadi, who is now in his 30s, for a few weeks until a facility opens up with a space that Gadi can permanently live in.

Ruven takes Gadi back to his apartment and gives Gadi a room that is filled with auto parts. Ruven soon learns that Gadi lives by routines; he has to eat at certain exact times, his food can’t be touching other foods on his plate, before bed he has to have his feet massaged. Ruven doesn’t quite know how to handle Gadi and so Ruven takes Gadi to work. He gives Gadi a job to clean around the shop and wash customer’s cars. Ruven takes Gadi to a restaurant run by Rita (Yafit Asulin) a close family friend and one who considers Ruven a father figure. The cafe is filled with regulars, people that come to Rita’s restaurant every day. Ruven seems to be embarrassed by Gadi, who is quite loud and very friendly to people, especially young woman who he is constantly flirting with.

It is a difficult time for Gadi. He has to overcome the shock of the death of a mother who he dearly loved and fully depended on. Now he is thrust into a situation of a father who doesn’t want him there and doesn’t know how to deal with Gadi. Will Gadi and Ruven ever figure out their relationship and become more like father and son, instead of two strangers who don’t understand each other?

Shoelaces was the opening-night film of the 2019 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, the largest Jewish film festival in the world. Goldwasser bngs us a touching and moving film that treats the lead character Gadi with a kind and loving touch. The film brings up the subject of how we see and deal with people that have special needs. It’s also a movie about relationships: between a father and son, between Ruven who becomes interested in dating the social worker, Ilana, between Ruven’s mechanic and the Ethiopian waitress at Rita’s who he won’t introduce to his friends, making the waitress feel like he is ashamed of her.

The center of this film is the performances of Doval’e Glickman as the grumpy father who smokes too much and his son, Gadi, played by the amazing Nevo Kimchi who sees joy in a world that doesn’t always treat him well. Glickman gives a wonderful performance as a man who slowly realizes that he can take care of Gadi and maybe even enjoy their time together. Glickman doesn’t let us see much of Ruven’s feelings at first, as he prefers to keep people at arm’s length. Glickman slowly lets us see that Ruven can be kind and tender in dealing with both his son and with Ilana, who he finally asks out on a date.

There a warmth and humor from Kimchi’s performance that makes us like Gadi from almost the instant you meet him on the screen. What I like about this performance is that Kimchi lets us see that Gadi is really good about reading a person and how they are feeling. The only fault I found in Kimchi’s performance is that his voice can get on your nerves a bit, but that is such a minor thing.

During a taped Q& A at the screening with the director, Goldwasser said that we have a tendency when we encounter people with special-needs to look away. He said instead, you should look at them and engage with them. Like Shoelaces and its main character Gadi, you just might enjoy the experience and maybe even learn something about yourself.  

Shoelaces Review

My Rating: Full Price

Mike’s Rating System From Best to Worst
1 I Would Pay to See it Again
2 Full Price
3 Bargain Matinee
4 Cable
5 You Would Have to Pay Me to See it

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