SPOILER ALERT: Given my feeling that few of you will see this film, I’ve taken the liberty to describe certain scenes central to my review.
The Israeli film Foxtrot, directed by Samuel Maoz, intrigued me for several reasons. First of all, it was picked as the best foreign language film last year by the National Board of Review and won the Grand Jury prize at the Venice Film Festival. Secondly, its trailer had a tantalizing moment where it showed a young Israeli soldier guarding a remote outpost where he gave his comrades a demonstration of how to do the foxtrot dance while holding his rifle.
Nonetheless, what made this movie a colossal disappointment is that it proved to be one of the most depressing films I have seen in recent years. From the opening scene where a couple is wrongfully informed that their son has died in combat to an ending moment where the son’s van tumbles over a cliff while trying to avoid a collision with a camel, you as a viewer are left in a constant state of unrelenting emotional pain.
While the movie contains some brilliant acting, nearly every character vacillates from boredom to an emotional breakdown. Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) and Daphna (Sarah Adler) are an attractive married couple who are left gasping when they are informed of their son’s death. The mother must be drugged by an Army medical team while the father goes positively berserk. Though you want to give them space and allow them to fight through their agony given that you know little about them prior to this moment, you soon draw the conclusion that this disturbed married couple have been dancing on the edge of an emotional cliff for a long time.
Yonaton Shira plays their son Jonathan, who was the soldier who did the marvelous dance scene I referred to earlier. But other than that moment, he did little more than stare into space contemplating his loneliness.
Assigned to checking the identification of any cars passing through his assigned desolate crossroads, he inadvertently opens fire with his automatic weapon on a car containing a very attractive young woman who was smiling at him. Mistakenly believing that a beer can rolling from the vehicle was a grenade, the young woman’s smile was followed by a death warrant.
Forgive me for outlining these moments in the movie, but as noted earlier I truly doubt that most of you will take the time to see this film before it quickly leaves the theater. But if you do, take some Xanax because you will need it long before the movie ends.