A photographer returns home to her Orthodox Jewish community and rekindles a forbidden romance in Disobedience. Ronit Krushka (Rachel Weisz) is a New York based photographer, who returns home to London to mourn the death of her rabbi father. Despite being estranged from her Orthodox Jewish family, she is invited to stay at the home of her cousin Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), who it turns out has married Ronit’s old childhood friend Esti (Rachel McAdams). Ronit’s presence rekindles a forbidden attraction between her and Esti, which causes great strain on the family.
Disobedience is a film from Oscar-winning Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman), adapted from the novel by Naomi Alderman. The film centres around a forbidden lesbian romance between two childhood friends, which is rekindled after many years. This romance comes major conflict with the very patriarchal nature of this Orthodox Jewish community.
It’s sort of amazing that we are in 2018 and we are still getting films about homosexual relationships, which are forbidden by a certain community. I would argue that the film is more about being a commentary of on the Orthodox Jewish faith. Despite being the daughter of the rabbi, Ronit is very much the black sheep of her family and it is her cousin Dovid, who is being groomed to be the rabbi’s successor. As such, it causes a minor scandal when Ronit returns for her father’s funeral and rekindles a romance with Esti, who is now married to Dovid and is still heavily involved in the community.
In depicting the central lesbian romance of the film, Sebastián Lelio seems to be trying to balance the line between being erotic and gratuitous. For the film’s major love scene between Ronit and Esti, Lelio opts to keep both Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams mostly clothed and focuses primarily on the passion on their faces. This differs greatly from the extended sex scenes seen in something like Blue is the Warmest Colour. While its heavily hinted that the relationship being discovered is the reason Ronit is estranged from the community, I would have liked it if the film included a bit more of a detailed backstory about Ronit and Esti’s relationship.
As his first English-language film, it can be argued that Disobedience was overshadowed a little bit by the Oscar-winning success of Sebastián Lelio’s previous film A Fantastic Woman. However, Disobedience is still an interesting look at the conflict between religious faith and one’s personal identity.