Meduzot (the Hebrew word for Jellyfish) tells the story of three very different Israeli women living in Tel Aviv whose intersecting stories weave an unlikely portrait of modern Israeli life. Batya, a catering waitress, takes in a young child apparently abandoned at a local beach. Batya is one of the servers at the wedding reception of Keren, a young bride who breaks her leg in trying to escape from a locked toilet stall, which ruins her chance at a romantic honeymoon in the Caribbean. One of the guests is Joy, a Philippine chore woman attending the event with her employer, and who doesn’t speak any Hebrew (she communicates mainly in English), and who is guilt-ridden after having left her young son behind in the Philippines.
By A. O. SCOTT
April 4, 2008
“Jellyfish” is the kind of movie — not quite ubiquitous, but not exactly rare either — in which the accidental connections between lonely city dwellers are given a magical glow of serendipity. Like Miranda July’s“Me and You and Everyone We Know” and Jill Sprecher’s “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing” — Los Angeles and New York variations on this conceit — “Jellyfish,” which takes place mainly in Tel Aviv, seeks out mystical patterns in the drab fabric of modern existence. Its characters are, for the most part, lost, glum and confused, but their crisscrossing stories nonetheless seem charmed.
And the film, directed by Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen from a screenplay by Ms. Geffen (who is married to Mr. Keret), is altogether charming. It mostly avoids the self-conscious cuteness that is the inevitable side effect of whimsical surrealism, and it explores difficult feelings without descending into easy sentimentality. The dominant emotion experienced by the movie’s characters seems to be disappointment — the vague, drifting sense of expectations slowly deflating under the pressure of everyday life — but the film’s spirit is refreshingly playful and sweet.
As is the odd little girl who appears to be the title character: a wordless, red-haired creature with a flotation ring around her waist who shows up on the beach where Batya (Sarah Adler) is moping one day. Moping is Batya’s vocation, though she certainly has reason to be blue. In the course of the movie’s 78 minutes she is dumped by her boyfriend, fired from her job and neglected by her mother, a celebrity philanthropist whose image pops up on billboards and in television commercials. The jellyfish child, while not quite a figment of Batya’s imagination, seems nonetheless to have been conjured out of her half-buried memories of childhood, when she might have been a little happier.
Meanwhile (and the cross-hatched structure of this film guarantees that it is always meanwhile), a newlywed couple (Gera Sandler and Noa Knoller) find their honeymoon ruined by external accidents and internal tensions. They are trapped in a hotel that may be a metaphor for the long marital confinement to come. And a Filipino immigrant named Joy (Ma-nenita De Latorre) pines for her young son back home and tries vainly to communicate with the grumpy old woman (Zharira Charifai) in her care.
Each of these stories follows its own zigzagging, bittersweet path, and their intersections suggest important themes and subtle motifs. This is a movie about the gulf between parents and children, between lovers, between friends and even between adults and the children they wish they could still be.
But it is also about the irreducible oddness of being alive, and the tiny pleasures and kindnesses that can compensate for the usual tedium and indifference of the world. It is not about politics or war or national identity, which for a movie from Israel is a surprise and also something of a relief. Not that Mr. Keret and Ms. Geffen seem at all disengaged from the world and its troubles. They are, rather, concerned with a stranger, but also more intimately familiar, set of problems.