Directed by: #CharlesWahl
Written by: #CharlesWahl
James (Maslany) and his wife Lola (Ohlm), a recent Jewish convert, live in a community without any Mohels, and after celebrating the birth of their first son they have to fly one in to perform the Brit Milah - the circumcision ceremony.
The Mohel (2021) is directed and written by Charles Wahl and this Canadian based filmmaker presents a compelling short drama focusing on a unique subject matter which Is not often explored in movies released today. The film has been nominated for the SXSW Grand Jury Award for Narrative Short and its interesting themes raised in just under fifteen minutes driven by an intriguing story and great performances all around make this movie a strong contender for the award.
Guy Godfree’s cinematography compliments Wahl’s reflective direction elegantly with some lovely day and night-time shots, as well as a fantastic low angle shot of the rabbi as he arrives at the house carrying a small doctor’s bag, making for a clever call back to the famous shot from The Exorcist (1973). The film’s poster also reflects this iconic image poetically. There is a contemplative, solemn quality to the tone of the short, with many quiet moments narrowing in on James and his relationship with the rabbi as well as his new-born son that add a dignified distinction to the film.
All of the cast play their roles well with a believable level of authenticity, from the young couple who are anxiously hoping their baby’s circumcision goes well to the overbearing mother proud of her Jewish heritage and urging her son to follow their religion’s traditions. In particular, Rosenthal as Rabbi Fishel brings an admirable level of gravitas to his part, with a charismatic and grounded performance leaving a strong impression after viewing. The Brit Milah scene is incredibly effective in building suspense (despite the fact that we know that everything is probably going to be fine!) and this is mostly down to the performances of the three leads, with Rosenthal’s commanding line delivery and the young couple’s anxiety portrayed perfectly onscreen.
The film is also profound in its themes and presents thought provoking ideas surrounding religious ceremonies like the Brit Milah. Wahl meditates on the divide between new and old traditions, with James’ mother reminding her son that Lola should have covered her tattoos on her arm before extending her hand for the rabbi to shake and James not being able to speak Hebrew like his mother. The most impactful theme is the idea of religious ceremonies simply being transactional, which is reinforced by the cynical, darkly humoured ending, making for interesting food for thought.
The Mohel offers an intriguing short narrative with a distinctive subject matter and its fascinating themes are presented through contemplative direction and grounded performances, making for a solid watch.