The Other Son
We’ve all heard of our fair share of switched-at-birth stories. From to 90s films, 60 Minute specials and in trashy magazines with bright pink covers, they all instil a fear in pregnant women around the world that they may leave the hospital with the wrong child.
But no matter how many stories I’ve seen, heard or read about baby swaps, I keep going back for more. And this time, I’m glad I went back.
‘The Other Son’ hinges on 18-year-old Joseph Silberg’s (Jules Sitruk) conscription into the Israeli Defense Forces. When blood tests find that his blood type is not compatible with his parents, they insist on a DNA test, which reveals that Joseph is not their biological son.
The hospital he was born in conduct an investigation and find that due to the bombing attack that occurred on the night of his birth, Joseph and another baby were taken to a shelter and accidently switched. What makes the switch even more dramatic is the fact that the other family is Palestinian. Not only do the boys now have to deal with new parents, siblings and each other, but the added pressure of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict causes discontent within and between the families and the within the boys themselves. How can you love your family, or yourself for that matter, when you’re your own worst enemy?
As the film progresses, many of these conflicts are raised – like whether Joseph is still Jewish, despite being biologically, an Arab, and is Yacine Al Bezaaz (Mehdi Dehbi) more Jewish than him. What about telling their friends? Will their friends reject them? And how do you interact with and understand your new family, without offending the family that raised you? As the boys get to know each other, and their biological families, they start to understand parts of themselves that had being unexplained, like Joseph’s love for music and Yacine’s interest in medicine.
Maybe I’ve seen one too many Hollywood blockbusters lately, or perhaps the Israeli-Palestinian divide is milder than what the media makes it out to be, but I was hoping for a bit more drama or action. For the story to elevate to another level and perhaps include a plot twist. This starts to build as Yacine’s older brother begins to reject him, but fails to amount to the drama I was looking for. ‘The Other Son’ lightly scratches the surface of the emotions of the boys, their families and the notion of nature versus nurture – what really make you, you?
While I enjoyed the film and the concepts it raised about identity, which left me pondering my own biological and cultural make-up, I would have appreciated a bit more risk taking from Lévy, rather than the passive look at self, family and politics that she presented.
Rating: M: Violence, offensive language and drug use.