Film Review: People That Are Not Meby Joy Bernard | 15.01.17
A young Tel Avivian girl walks down one of the city’s central, sun-dappled boulevards. Her hair is trimmed into a fashionable bob, she’s dressed in common hipster attire (duffel bag included) and the music in her hip earphones seems to serve as a buffer between her and the outside world. Suddenly, she runs into a distant acquaintance, and the two conduct an awkward chat that leaves an opening for a romantic encounter later on. She bids goodbye to the young man only to embarrassingly realize that they’re headed in the same direction.
When they finally do part, the protagonist stops at a traffic light and for a long moment the camera focuses on her face as she stands at the busy intersection and waits for the light to change. This moment perfectly encapsulates the effortless charm of People That Are Not Me, a new Israeli urban cinematic tale.
As the music in her earphones intensifies (she happens to be listening to the classic rock-pop song This Is Not A Love Song, which manages to be uplifting and heart-wrenching at the same time, much like the rest of the soundtrack) the film rapidly shifts gears, luring the viewers in.
It’s clear from the start that director Hadas Ben Aroya, who is trying her hand at a full-length feature film for the first time and has written, directed and bravely acted the lead in this film, has succeeded in creating a character viewers will root for and identify with while still judging and mocking her decision-making.
People That Are Not Me follows 25-year-old Joy through the popular Tel Avivian intersection of King George Street and Dizengoff Street and onto a painfully confusing and exciting period in this young woman’s life. Suffering a broken heart after breaking up with her boyfriend of several years, Joy—whose chronicles are so quintessentially Tel Avivian they will make you scoff and smile understandingly at the very same time if you’re a local—attempts to mend her broken heart through one failed sexual rendezvous after another.
She chases after the wrong boy, who is more interested in writing his PhD thesis than in answering her frenetic, desperate phone calls (this is the same guy with whom Joy had a cringe-worthy conversation in the opening scenes of the film). She can’t stand being by herself so she fills up her downtime with odd dates and indifferent binge watching of reality cooking shows on television.
Whenever she isn’t comically and disastrously interacting with the aloof if gentle Nir (portrayed by Yonatan Bar-Or whose acting is so convincing it will make you shudder as it will certainly bring to mind every well-intentioned, emotionally distant hipster you’ve dated), she reminisces about happier times with her ex Yonatan whom she constantly tries to contact and even harasses at his home to no avail.
As the film follows Joy in her walks through iconic Tel Aviv streets, it delivers just the right amount of biting, satirical criticism of the ever-confused Generation Y, represented in this film through the soulful eyes of its endearing but self-centered protagonist as well as her occasional paramours .
One of the best examples for this snide representation of “generation now” (as in, I want it all now and seem to care only about the here and now, regardless of future repercussions) is the scene in which Joy attends a typical Tel Aviv nightclub. In one of the script’s many intelligent and subtle quips, she meets a girl there that she saw in the club on another occasion and tells her that it’s nice that she’s there at the club almost every night. The girl smiles sadly at Joy and answers: “It’s not as nice as it’s my fear that something will happen when I’m not here and I will miss out.”
The egotistic Millennial narrative shines through at its best in the film’s long, awkward sex scenes in which Joy and Nir try to forge intimacy despite their obvious differences in background, opinions, tastes and interests. In one such moment Joy goes into an emotional diatribe about how men misinterpret her and fail to recognize her quality attributes, expressing her wish to be “the kind of girl who talks to guys about Hannah Arendt.”
Nir gazes at Joy deeply but then corrects her pronunciation of the German political theorist’s name, ignores her vulnerable confession and caps it all off by ridiculously proposing that they have sex.
If People That Are Not Me doesn’t seem to be depicting your own life, you will certainly be able to recognize your children, friends or colleagues in its unflinchingly honest and comic portrayal of a young woman’s life and at times pathetic quest for love in the alienating metropolis.
Readers can view People That Are Not Me at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque or at any Cinema City complex in Israel.