– By Cate Marquis –
MENASHE is a heartfelt Yiddish-language drama about a widowed Hasidic Jewish father man trying to regain custody of his son. Director Joshua Weinstein gives us an intriguing glimpse inside New York’s Hasidic community, although it is not always an affectionate one. Still, this is an excellent little film that offers realism and a touching story.
Menashe (Menashe Lustig) is a gentle, chubby, rather-disheveled Hasidic man in his mid-thirties who has been struggling emotionally as well as financially since the death of his wife. His rabbi (Meyer Schwartz) has decreed that the widower’s 10-year-old son Rieven (Ruben Niborski) must live with Menashe’s married and more prosperous brother-in-law Eizik (Yoel Weisshaus) until his father remarries. Menashe is determined to prove he is capable of taking care of his son on his own.
The truth is there is reason for the rabbi to be concerned about Menashe’s ability to take care of his son. Menashe barely makes enough money to live on in his job at a small grocery yet he is often late and does not seem to take his job seriously. His cramped apartment is disorganized and he seems barely able to take care of himself, much less a child. It is not surprising that the rabbi would place the boy with his late mother’s more successful brother but Menashe resents Eizik taking over his parental role. The situation is made worse by Eizik’s disapproving attitude towards his sister’s underachieving husband. Although Menashe has allowed the matchmaker to arrange a few meetings for him, he seems in no hurry to re-marry but he is determined to get his son back regardless.
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