TJFF 2017: Our Review of ‘Harmonia’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies by - May 15, 2017
TJFF 2017: Our Review of ‘Harmonia’

Filmmaker Ori Sivan is a man who knows how to explore the complexities of relationships. After all he is one of the creators of the Israeli series In Therapy (Be’Tipul), which served as the basis for the HBO drama In Treatment. His latest work, Harmonia, finds the director retelling the Genesis story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar through a modern-day lens.

Abraham (Alon Aboutboul), the conductor of the Jerusalem Philharmonic Orchestra, is married to Sarah the company’s principal harpist (Tali Sharon). Though they share a passion for the arts, the fact that Sarah has been unable to have children has become a point of tension in the marriage. The couple’s relationship takes an unexpected turn when a French horn player, Hagar (Yana Yossef), is accepted into the company. After striking up a friendship with Sarah, Hagar offers to be a surrogate for the couple, on the condition that she will not have any responsibility in raising the child.

As one might expect, this decision has major ramifications for everyone involved when Ben, the son Hagar gave birth to, discovers years later that Sarah is not his real mother.

Sivan uses music as an intriguing glue that binds the crumbling family together. However, Harmonia loses its captivating edge when it shifts from the Sarah/Hagar friendships and focuses primarily on the triangle of Sarah, Ben and the addition of Sarah’s own son Isaac. The petulant child and frustrated mother conflict between Ben and Sarah feels repetitive and reveals how thinly written the characters are.

Though the film builds to an emotional, but rather convenient, ending, it is a bit of a chore getting there. Spanning several years, Harmonia strives to be an intricate symphony, but fails to sustain its occasional high notes.

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Courtney has been sharing his thoughts on film online since 2006. The founder of Cinema Axis, he frequently celebrates diversity in cinema as one of the co-hosts of the Changing Reels podcast on Modern Superior. Courtney has contributed to several publications including Comix Asylum Magazine and The Grid Does TIFF. He is also a member of both the Canadian Association of Online Film Critics and the Online Film Critics Society.