Review of The Other Son

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As he prepares to join the Israeli army for his national service, Joseph discovers he is not his parents’ biological son, but that he was inadvertently switched at birth with Yassin, the son of a Palestinian family from the West Bank. This revelation turns the lives of these two families upside-down, forcing them to reassess their respective identities, their values and their beliefs.
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Imagine a freak accident being enough to bring Israeli and Palestinian’s together and you’ll basically have the jist of what French filmmaker Lorraine Levy is going for here with “The Other Son.” It’s an intriguing concept about two 18-year olds, an Israeli named Joseph (Jules Sitruk) and a Palestinian named Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi), born during the Gulf War and mistakenly given to wrong families following the confusion of a bombing in Haifa.

The stage is set for a strong character drama and while it occasionally seems contrived and a bit too easy, Levy (and her co-screenwriters Nathalie Saugeon and Noam Fitoussi) has put a lot of thought into this and the acting is fantastic across the board. Emanuelle Devos and Areen Omari are very compelling as mothers coming to terms with actually learning about their biological sons for the first time. A scene where the families are brought together at a dinner for the first time is filled with realization that each actress plays perfectly. Pascal Elbe and Kalifa Natour are equally good in this scene, as alpha males who have completely different ideologies. But it’s the hesitancy to acknowledge this conflict even exists and the awkwardness each feels when encountering the other as the film goes on that has the same style of machismo; males wanting to protect their own. Mahmud Shalaby also turns in strong work as Yacine’s brother Bilal, who must reconcile his prejudices with the brother he grew up with.

And probably the most hopeful and thought-provoking part of the film is handled by Sitruk and Dehbi. Here Levy asks the most pertinent questions, like will the change of family impact Joseph’s Jewish faith or would the Med-school bound Yacine have turned out differently if he was given to Joseph’s family? Deep down the two are both victims of circumstance, wanting to understand if not fully accept the detour this has made in their lives. It makes you think that maybe the search for common ground can begin with the young.