10% My Child

10% My Child/Photo: Yael Lev-Ram
10% My Child/Photo: Yael Lev-Ram

10% My Child looks at some of the messier aspects of life with imagination, warmth, and humor. In Uri Bar On’s debut feature film Nico (Udi Persi), a twenty-something aspiring filmmaker, finds himself eye to eye with his lover’s little girl Franny (Yali Friedman), who like many children, has come to her mother’s bedroom door at night. Nico does the only sensible thing: he panics, grabs his clothes, and leaves. But what happens next?

In our very fluid culture, we follow our hearts, understanding that relationships begin and end, but where in all this are the children? What do we say to them? How much to share? When is the right time to bring a new person into our children’s lives? Probably not middle of the night and naked… How do we relate to a lover’s children? They already have two parents, so what are we for them, and who are they in our own lives?

It’s a strange relationship that brings together two people who didn’t necessarily even want to meet one another in the first place. For Franny, Nico is an intruder, the man who came between her parents and broke up her family. The step situation has been plumbed in film, usually for the horror (Boyhood), sentimentality (Stepmom), or wacky humor (Yours, Mine, and Ours). Somehow, the tendency is to be a little one-dimensional and over-the-top, with Alison Janney in Juno and Liam Neeson in Love, Actually being notable exceptions.

10% My Child takes a very direct, matter of fact approach that does not gloss over the awkward bits, glamorize or demonize any of its protagonists (well, almost), and rather than making a grand statement, or spinning out an epic drama, tells one, not so simple, yet well defined story, with lively, complex characters and a strong sense of place. The film lets the viewer become better acquainted with Nico and Franny, as one follows their relationship in all its twists and turns. Franny’s mother is barely present as a character in the film. It’s an unusual choice to make, which made me wonder if budget considerations were involved, yet, ultimately, I felt that it was a good choice for this film. In contemporary love stories, the children are usually a side plot at best, the relationships between adults always taking center stage, even when the child is presumably the main character (What Maisie Knew). Yes, the relationship is instigated and driven by Nico’s relationship to her mother, but that is always just the background, the focus is always on Nico and Franny, it’s their story.

10% My Child/Photo: Yael Lev-Ram
10% My Child/Photo: Yael Lev-Ram

Udi Persi, who gave a memorable performance in Room 514, is wonderful as Nico. It’s both amusing and moving to go on this emotional journey with this young man who is full of energy, imagination and dreams. He is very much in love with Noa (Franny’s mother), and will do whatever it takes to make the relationship work, but as he works his way through the inevitable difficulties, revealing his own vulnerabilities, strengths, and weaknesses in the process, one’s empathy is with him as he discovers so much more along the way. Yaheli Friedman is enormously appealing as Franny, even when she is being horrid. Or perhaps especially then… This young actress does a terrific job of being a real child onscreen, not an easy task.

The film really stands out as one of the few I’ve seen that depicts a man who willingly takes on the responsibility for caring for a child, and follows him as he discovers all that it involves. It’s a very honest and tender portrayal of the trust, respect, and mutual affection that can only grow slowly, day by day. 10% My Child is a film that understands that the epic stories of our lives take place every day, at the kitchen table, walking home from school, telling bedtime stories.

It’s also a wonderful Tel Aviv film, that conveys an authentic sense of this place and the people who live here. The bar where Nico works, with Gur Bentwich as the sympathetic yet pragmatic owner, the park, the streets, the ubiquitous construction, the traffic jams, the apartments with their very different interiors and entrances – this is a movie that really knows and loves Tel Aviv. It’s also a movie that loves film, and Uri Bar On is not afraid to use the medium creatively with a great feeling of fun, rhythm and pizzazz.

10% My Child opens in Israeli theatres July 9, 2015

***All Sunday screenings at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque are with subtitles in English. On July 15th there will be a screening at the Herzliya Cinematheque with subtitles in English followed by Q & A (also in English!) with the director.

10% My Child (Israel, 2014, 85 min)
Written and directed by Uri Bar On; Executive Producers: Evie Tabechi, Yaniv Tuviah; Producers: Eden Tzuli, Kobi Zaig, Shalom Goodman, Nava Levin, Uri Bar On; Cinematography: Daniel Kedem, Kobi Zaig; Editing: Yoni Man; Original music: Nicole Mercedes, Roy Erez; Color design: Ron Ben Meir; Soundtrack: Nin Hazan; Screenplay editor: Gal Kostoritza; Animation and after-effects: Sivan Peterman; Line producer: Shalom Goodman; Co-producer: Ben Khalifi; Cast: Udi Persi (Nico), Yaheli Friedman (Franny), Vered Feldman (Moran the ex), Gur Bentwich (Yoav, bar owner), Idan Alterman (dog owner), Uri Klausner (school security guard), Efrat Ben Yaakov (runs dog center).