Probably the most terrifying thing that can happen to a woman is that her child was inadvertently switched at birth. But, what if those two children were brought up as enemies before the unbelievable was discovered. This happens to be the premise of the foreign film The Other Son that’s now playing in selected theaters around the country.
The film tells the story of 18-year-old Joseph (Jules Sitruk) a young Jewish boy living in the home of his parents. Attaining of age to serve his mandatory military commitment, his Israeli Army Commander father Alon (Pascal Elbé) and physician mother Orith Silber (Emmanuelle Devos) anxiously awaits for their son’s acceptance. In a shocking quirk of fate, Joseph turns up with an A positive blood type to his parents A negative. After DNA testing they realize they have the wrong child. After going through records of his birth a discovery is made that Joseph was a victim of an accidental switch at birth during the Gulf War. With the common occupied territory at the time the switch happened during the evacuation of the clinic where the two were simultaneously born.
With the prospect that her real son has been raised in nearby Palestine, in a country at odds with Israel, Orith starts to investigate whether her Jewish son is still alive. When she gets word that he is, her maternal instinct forces her to make an attempt to contact the family raising him.
The narrative takes on several challenges, the switch and the political differences between two estranged countries are the main plot perspectives. Throw into this mix that Joseph’s father commands the Army that’s sworn to aggression with the neighboring Palestine and the age of the two boys who are both on the cusp of choosing their paths in life, and you have a very provocative story.
It’s difficult enough for director/writer Lorraine Levy to make this tale believable of two children being caught up in a human child swap, but adding the strong weight of two nations in a perpetual war adds an almost inconceivable task. In my opinion Levy does an admirable job of pulling off the tough premise even though her audience has to accept certain pragmatisms most Americans would think impossible especially in light of the political climate of the two countries.
The cinematography by Emmanuel Soyer gets extremely good, showing the two countries in a different light. While Israel takes on an almost festive feel, Palestine tends to be more bleak and daunting. The home life gets pictured with a more relaxed Americanized lifestyle in the Jewish household while a more problematic one that includes poverty in the neighboring country. This diverse recognition adds to the challenges and choices the two boys have to make.
I like the acting by the whole cast but especially that of the two boys played by Jules Sitruk as Joseph and Mehdi Dehbi as Yacine Al Bezaaz. Fleshing out their characters may have been a bit challenging, but the two do an commendable job. Yacine becomes this likable character that takes on a new persona when Joseph offers him a job of selling ice cream at the beach. His flair for making friends with the girls makes his attempt at transition more likely.
The Other Son has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for a scene of violence, brief language and drug use.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A good film with a provocative plot. ★★★★★★
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