The film, A Tale of Love and Darkness, is based on the best-selling, autobiographical novel of the same name, by Israeli author, Amos Oz, first published in Hebrew in 2002. He is writing as an older man, looking back at his childhood and his parents, especially his mother. Set in Jerusalem, in the late 1940s, the backdrop is the ending of the British Mandate and the creation of the Jewish State of Israel. We see a little of this, but I would have liked to see more. This film is a dark telling of a sad story of a woman who couldn't rise above her horrific past life. The trauma of leaving behind what had been a happy, comfortable life, and the murder of practically all her family by the Nazis, was more than she could bear. No doubt, the story of so many people who fled to Israel, it's not an uplifting tale. The poverty that the newcomers suffered is not inspiring. The lack of love between the author's parents is not encouraging. Natalie Portman's portrayal of a woman suffering from clinical depression is impressive, but not particularly attractive. I found myself sympathizing with her husband, and even condoning his unfaithfulness. He tried so hard, but she spurned him.
Natalie Portman was born in Israel, which perhaps helps explain her obviously deep feeling for this story. We can guess at those feelings as she expresses them in this, her debut as a screen-writer and director. The film is so dark it has left me thinking it was in monochrome. The people are all so miserable, I really would prefer not to be around them. The story is so depressing, this is certainly not a feel-good movie. Hopefully, Portman will consider her audience when she makes her next film, and not see her art as simply a self-indulgent expression of her own pain. This can perhaps be forgiven once, but certainly not a second time if she wants to find a larger following. Not having read the book, I find it hard to understand why it was so popular. I prefer stories of people rising above adversary, not wallowing in it and allowing it to defeat them.
Portman's writing and direction are excellent, especially for a first film. I hope she chooses a more cheerful subject if she chooses to make another movie. There are so many positive stories to be told about Israel, surely, I hope her mood lifts, now that she has expressed the darker side.