all reviews by GREG KING
The opening night film at this year’s Israeli Film Festival is The Matchmaker, an absolutely charming but bittersweet coming of age film from director Avi Nesher (Turn Left at the End of the World, The Secrets). Set in the bustling port city of Haifa in 1968, the film follows 16 year old Arik Burstein (Tuval Shafir) as he learns about love, jealousy, family history, secrets, sex and the darkness that lurks in human souls. During the summer holidays, Arik is hired by Yankele Bride (television comedian Adir Miller), the local matchmaker, to follow prospective clients to see if they are worthy matches. But the film also explores his relationship with the local librarian Meir (Dror Keren) and the mysterious and damaged Clara (Maya Dagan), whose actions are informed by their past. Based on Amir Gutfreund’s book When Heroes Fly, the film deals with some universal themes. But the upbeat feel of the material is tempered by the feelings of guilt experienced by the Holocaust survivors trying to adjust to life in their new homeland. The Matchmaker is driven by a charismatic, appealing and natural performance from newcomer Shafir.