Film: Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi

Shot in 2002 and released last year, Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi is a charming coming-of-age comedy by Israeli director Shemi Zarhin, who wrote the script in “five unusual days” in 2001.

Sixteen-year-old Shlomi Bardayan (Osri Cohen) is an unappreciated pillar of strength whose family leans on him so fully that, except for a wise old grandpa, they fail to notice his special qualities. He’s a handsome, wholesome, male version of Cinderella — ignored, ill-treated, and awaiting the magical wand of fate.

Shlomi cooks delectable stews, roasts, cakes and pies to comfort the self-absorbed and emotionally dyspeptic souls in his turbulent household. By contrast, his older brother Doron, a soldier and rock guitarist, seems to live for physical pleasures. With two brothers so reminiscent of Jacob and Esau, can a blessing and inheritance be far away?

As the story opens, Shlomi’s parents have separated after an instance of paternal infidelity, but when Dad comes knocking at the door for forgiveness, Mom won’t let him back across the threshold. Doron brags of his sexual prowess at the dinner table and coaches Shlomi on how to lose his virginity. Meanwhile their sister Ziva returns home with her twin infant sons after discovering that her husband stays up late, surfing X-rated web sites.

It’s up to Shlomi to repair these familial rifts. However, he receives little credit or notice for anything until his teacher and principal recognize his astounding math skills. Simultaneously Rona, the beautiful girl next door, notices him just as he falls in love with her.

Despite a stumbling block, Shlomi’s love-match takes and he learns to stand up for himself. After his grandfather dies and leave him an inheritance, he decides it’s time to leave home and go live with Rona. Unlike Jacob, Shlomi doesn’t seem to be fleeing the fraticidal intentions of a jealous brother, and there’s no suggestion that a period of servitude to a Laban-like figure awaits.

Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi equally bears resemblance to a romantic fairy-tale from which certain ugly realities of daily life have been excluded. Still, this heart-warming adolescent tale is genuinely funny, entertaining, even uplifting. ♦

© 2004