Foxtrot review: Samuel Maoz’s Israeli drama is a work that deserves analysis and years of unpacking.
Foxtrot review by Awais Irfan.
Whilst it may not have picked up the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy-Awards, it’s safe to say that you won’t see any film this year quite like Samuel Maoz’s Israeli drama Foxtrot.
The story revolves around the Feldman family; when Daphna (Sarah Adler) and Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) find out the tragic news that their son, Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray), was killed in the line of duty, the pair have to come to terms with this news. That is, in essence, the bare bones of the premise of Foxtrot but to reveal any more wold be a disservice to the film. Why? Because Foxtrot is one of the most surprising films of the year; this is a story that subverts all expectations and traditions of cinema and how a story is told. This puts a totally unconventional spin on the three-act structure, keeping its cards close to its chest until the very end. It’s a film that leaves a subtle trail of breadcrumbs for the sharp viewers, those that may start putting pieces together before the film’s revelations are made – but, even they will be taken aback by the time the credits have rolled.
The film is thick with an air of ambiguity, grief, and humour; Maoz is excellent in establishing tone and building a wholly immersive atmosphere. He holds us in scenes; he lets the camera and dialogue linger to subliminal effect. But the world and the characters are so superbly crafted here; the screenplay is rife with nuance in its realisation and we are immersed in the world that Maoz has built here. It’s a film that deals with the ideas of grief and warfare superbly; again, juggling with these themes in unconventional ways. The performances are superb too; Ashkenazi, especially, gives such emotionally charged – yet provocatively subdued – work here. It’s very expressive work, conveying a lot through few words. He’s matched by Adler who is the opposite; she’s explosive and emotionally volatile. The pair make a brilliant pairing here, their clashing makes them a perfect pair and they’re riveting to watch together.
It’s hard to really talk too much about Foxtrot without giving much away; this is just the kind of film you must see to believe. It’s surreal; the rare character piece in which every character is sympathetically misguided. It’s a slow-paced film, yes; it takes its time to establish its story but it’s executed so sharply and so subliminally that the film remains wholly captivating to watch throughout. The finesse in Maoz’s craft is masterful; he has crafted a film that is so provocative and powerful yet one that is so original, unconventional and unpredictable. It’s a universal story about grief and family and done so superbly well. The orchestration of tone and tension is impeccable, blending some hilarious moments of comedy with its dark and sombre shell to provide that breath and respite from everything Maoz throws at us. It looks visually arresting too – with such careful and beautiful cinematography. The technicality on display is that to be hailed and praised for years – the kind of detailed work that deserves analysis and years of unpacking. What starts as a seemingly simple story about family becomes something so unexpected, idiosyncratic and flat-out astonishing beyond belief. And, believe the hype about the dance scene because it is incredible.
Foxtrot review by Awais Irfan, March 2018.
Foxtrot is slated for release in UK cinema’s on 14 December 2018.