Parents' Guide to

A Tale of Love and Darkness

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Portman's biopic of Israeli writer is earnest, ethereal.

Movie PG-13 2016 95 minutes
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Portman's directorial debut sensitively and ethereally depicts the nuances of Amos Oz' upbringing alongside the creation of Israel. The Academy Award-winning actor-director is herself Israeli (she has dual citizenship) and fluent in Hebrew, and she obviously cares about the subject material -- Oz' childhood memoir and tribute to his mother, whose tales about her pre-WWII life in Rivne (now a part of Ukraine) fueled his love of stories. Portman delivers on her dual role as director and co-star (her large, expressive eyes are ideal for conveying a sense melancholy).

Tessler also does a fine job playing the young Oz, but A Tale of Love and Darkness is just as much about his mother and Israel's early days as it is about his own boyhood experiences. While splitting the time between two main characters makes sense, since clearly the stories are intertwined, occasionally you wish for a little more of Oz' complex mother, whose motivations and tragedies are unknowable, of course, because the story is told from her son's perspective. Those hoping for a broad look at Oz' life should know that the movie covers only a sliver of his life -- particularly the years between 1945 and 1952, when Israel becomes a nation and his mother battles the depression that ultimately claimed her life.

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