Infants switched at birth -- This is an old, potent one in both literature and movies. From Shakespeare to a Bollywood masala, this plot point has been used numerous times. The French-Israeli co-production "The Other Son" (Le fils de l'autre) (2012) takes that comedy cliche and turns it into a compelling, humanistic family drama, even if some viewers may disapprove the film's final note of optimism. To make a movie that condenses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a matter of mistaken identity is not an easy task. But, director Lorraine Levy handles the task with aplomb what could easily have been a messy mix of emotions and politics.
During the 1991 missile attack (Gulf war) in Haifa, Israel, a hospital is speedily evacuated. Amidst the chaos, the two infants in the maternity ward are switched. One is Joseph and the other is Yacine. Joseph (Jules Sitruk) is a aspiring 18-year old musician, who was an Arab Muslim by blood but was raised in Tel Aviv by Jewish parents Orith (Emmanuelle Devos) and Alon (Pascal Elbe).Jospeh has signed to join in the air-force, like his friends. In that process, a blood test reveals that he is not the son of Orith and Army commander Alon.
Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi), Jewish by birth, is studying to be a doctor. He was raised in West Bank village by the Palestinian parents Soon, we see the Jewish parents sitting next to Leila and Saïd Al Bezaaz (Areen Omari and Khalifa Natour). Both the fathers are struck with shock, whereas the mothers share a heartbroken moment. Later, the parents breaks the news to their sons and they must now confront their true identities despite being raised according to the opposing beliefs of their non-biological parents.
Director Lorraine Levy and co-writer Nathalie Saugeon handles the drama with sensitivity as the teenagers tries to cope with the new situation. A story like this is never possible in the real life. But, the movie becomes an enlightened attempt to see the upside of an impossible political situation. It makes us think that how we would feel under similar circumstances. One of the most memorable sequence in the film is when Joseph makes a visit on his own to Palestine and meets his blood brother Bilal (Mahmood Shalabi), who is a very angry young man with a deep-seated hatred of the Jews. In the dinner table, faced with coldness, Joseph breaks the ice with a song that brings them all together to sing joyously.
Both the young actors are very convincing in their roles, who might easily have succumbed to the devastating news. Veteran French actress Devos gives an outstanding performance as Orith. However, not all about the movie is totally convincing. The ending is very average. It finishes like a over-dramatic TV movie. There are some overwrought dialogues and heavy-handed plot points, as well.
The ending and other flaws could be ignored, because the drama that precedes it is bold and meaningful, reminding us that the skill and sensitivity of the actors and director can turn a shaky parable of tolerance into a graceful and touching story. "The Other Son" is simple yet earnest at the same time.
The Other Son -- IMDb