Yearning for Freedom: Our Review of ‘Disobedience’ on MUBI

Posted in What's Streaming? by - September 01, 2023
Yearning for Freedom: Our Review of ‘Disobedience’ on MUBI

Ronit (Rachel Weisz) is a New York based photographer whose father is a rabbi in one of London’s Hasidic communities. After learning about his death, she rushes back to the community that still, decades after her departure, treats her with ambivalence. She tries to mourn him her own way, going to the plot where community members just birdied him. But there, she discovers that some younger devout Hasidim are praying at his plot like it’s a shrine. Because of this episode, she looks for others to mourn with her. She finds two people who tolerate her. The first is her cousin Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), and the second is his wife Esti (Rachel McAdams).

Ronit learns that she has no financial entitlement to the house where she grew up, she takes Esti there. There, they both reminisce about her father’s work as a rabbi, which led them to do whatever they wanted behind his back. A mix of emotions like loss and freedom contradict each other, but those emotions also bring back the attraction that they have for each other. The two eventually kiss, and kissing leads to them sneaking out to secular parts of London to do more. It doesn’t take long for the other grownup characters in Disobedience to catch them. This discovery forces them to either feel shame or to demand their freedom.

Disobedience is Sebastian Lelio’s first English language film. It also came out at the same time other directors (Luca Guadagnino and Yorgos Lanthimos) were finding their footing with English language material. And a third (Guillermo del Toro) won an Oscar or more for doing so. Lelio, at the time, has a lot of catching up to do, and if anything, this ends up being his best work because of how he controls his instincts. His other film in 2017, A Fantastic Woman, bafflingly got more recognition despite of its unnecessary sadism. On the other hand, this subtly mixes the carnal desire between two women and the paranoia one of them feels after giving in.

Read what I write next keeping in mind that Disobedience depicts characters who belong to two communities that have a reputation for restraint. But I like the controlled viscera that I see here. Both McAdams and Weisz convey that contradiction best. At times, both look like they’re in the verge of tears but almost never let it all out. Even that scene doesn’t feel as graphic. There’s a perpetual sadness to both characters. Even if they have these few days with each other, they mourn the years that they could have spent together. Disobedience explores something deeper than just two women’s mutual attraction, making it a perfect addition to MUBI’s horny catalogue.

This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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