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With: Lior Loui Ashkenazi, Ronit Elkabetz, Moni Moshonov, Lili Kosashvili, Aya Steinovits Laor
Written by: Dover Koshashvili
Directed by: Dover Koshashvili
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Hebrew and Georgian with English subtitles
Running Time: 100
Date: 05/17/2001

Late Marriage (2002)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Too 'Late' Blues

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I must not have received the memo that recently circulated around the world saying that everyone will be making movies about arranged marriages and smothering, domineering old-world parents. I can't count how many I've seen lately, but The Debut, The Flip Side, American Chai, Maryam, Monsoon Wedding and My Big Fat Greek Wedding are among them. I am certain, however, that Dover Koshashvili's Late Marriage is the best of them.

It's amazing to think that Late Marriage unfolds in less than a dozen major scenes, not counting little establishing shots. The camera stays still and quietly observing, and it picks up on details that other films frighten away with their slam-bang style. Late Marriage has the pulse of real life and the daring to allow logic and emotion to collide with painful results. Lior Louie Ashkenazi stars as Zaza, a handsome, sharply-dressed 31 year-old Israeli man who has not yet married. While he seems perfectly happy with this arrangement, he must endure his parents' constant efforts to introduce him to eligible young women.

During the first few minutes, we meet Zaza's meddling family members and witness his father shamelessly flirting, a clue that his own arranged marriage may not have been ideal. The family flocks to the living room of 17 year-old Ilana (Aya Steinovits Laor), a stunningly beautiful, but iron-willed teen who dreams of a career as a designer. Zaza and Ilana retreat to her bedroom for some alone time. They go through the motions of talking, and even attempt a passionate kiss, but neither one of them is really excited about the other. Zaza asks her what she wants in a man, and she replies that he has to be wealthy.

The family leaves, and we learn the real secret of Zaza's continued failure with women. He's seeing another woman named Judith (Ronit Elkabetz) on the side. She's beautiful too, but she has three strikes against her: she's older than Zaza by a couple of years, she's divorced and she has a daughter. In other words, the family will never consider her "pure" enough for their son.

Koshashvili allows us to spend the length of an evening with Zaza and his true love. They talk, eat dinner and make love. Again, these scenes are so routine and matter-of-fact that they drip with life. We come to precisely understand their feelings and interactions. Unfortunately, Zaza has locked the keys to his parents' house in his car. Since they can't go home, and they're waiting for him, they become aware that he has spent the night somewhere else. After a long and careful vigil, they discover Judith's identity and cruelly enter her apartment, embarrass and harass her, and steal their boy away.

As the film winds down, emotion bashes heads with logic and -- as in life -- one wins over the other. Koshashvili shockingly unravels his penultimate scene with Zaza and his father in the restroom together, the drunken Zaza symbolically and literally trying to climb back into his father's good graces. I don't want to talk too much about the movie's ending, but Late Marriage doesn't take the simplistic black-and-white way out of this ages-old predicament. Tradition is not something that's entirely evil and can be sloughed off like an old skin. Neither is true love the answer to all ills. It's a puzzle that will leave you thinking long after the film has ended.

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