17-year- old ASHER has always been the impulsive troublemaker, from primary school, all through junior high and high school. It's hard for him to concentrate in class, and he is compelled ...
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17-year- old ASHER has always been the impulsive troublemaker, from primary school, all through junior high and high school. It's hard for him to concentrate in class, and he is compelled by a lot of rage and violence; yet he is also endowed with a considerable amount of charm and street wisdom. While his strict father sees him as a natural successor to the family's scaffolding business, Asher finds a different masculine role model in his gentle literature teacher Rami and forges a special connection with him. Torn between the two worlds, Asher looks for a chance for a new life and new identity. When a sudden tragedy occurs, he has to take the ultimate test of maturity.
Like Arlo Guthrie in Alice's Restaurant, Asher Lax plays a character based somewhat on himself. A fellow who works for his father in the scaffolding business. There's cinematic potential there, and I wouldn't have minded coming out of the movie knowing a little about scaffolding, but that aspect is nowhere near thoroughly exploited. Nor is there a firm sense of place inside Israel. It seems that if a particular municipality isn't helping to fund the film, Israeli filmmakers are unaware of the advantage of making the location specific anyway. What we do get is the story of a young man with conflicting loyalties to two father figures-- the one he's intended to inherit the business from, who considers book learning superfluous to their lives, and his high-school English teacher, who wants to give him and his fellow low-scoring students a chance at intellectual development.
Asher's real-life teacher wrote and directed the movie, and maybe that's the reason it strays so little from the main characters into their surroundings or into the lives and personalities of supporting characters. In a TV interview, the teacher/writer/director pointed out that the teacher character is another person, like the Asher character, whose potential is unfulfilled and even unnoticed.
The Asher character is an unlikely protagonist, impatient and impulsive. It takes a while to wake up to the idea that this really is the fellow who's supposed to deserve the full measure of our attention, and even longer to warm to the idea. But the Asher actor performs at award level (one win, one major nomination) and he's supported by a top professional actor in the role of his father. The teacher is also played well, but the demands of the script make him an iceberg-- something that's mostly below the surface.
I imagine we haven't seen the last of Asher Lax the actor. Unlike his father in the movie, his real-life father says that if Asher wants to leave the scaffolding business, that's okay.
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