We gave it an A-
The title suggests gauziness and angels above, but the power of the sensitive, clear-eyed Israeli drama Broken Wings lies in writer-director Nir Bergman’s understanding of the tangible challenges of getting on with life following a death in the family. Dafna Ullman (local star Orli Zilbershatz-Banai) and her four children go through the motions in the still-fresh absence of husband and father — Dafna works night shifts as a hospital midwife, and each kid (from 5-year-old to high schooler) manages to get up in the morning. But grief, guilt, and anger twist each Ullman away from the others until a new crisis forces catharsis.
That the story is so oldfashioned and domestic and the family so average and secular is, in its way, the wind beneath this ”Broken Wings.” Even the freak cause of the father’s civilian death, a random collision of allergy and fate, is a bracing novelty in a drama freed from political positioning. The Israel that Bergman documents in his astute feature-film debut (it took home 2003 film-festival prizes in Jerusalem, Tokyo, and Berlin) is a place more shaped by economic strain than by religious fervors — Dafna doesn’t earn enough money to hire child care, and the burden of domesticity falls on her resentful oldest girl, played with delicacy by Maya Maron. And the very puniness of the misery is a jolt. There’s no golden Holy Land sunlight in this tenderly gray landscape, only suburban sprawl, an industrial skyline, a stalled car, and family members in need of a jump start.