Arik Rotstein’s moody Israeli film, Antenna, is ostensibly about a minor dispute concerning a cellular antenna. In actuality, it’s about family dynamics.
The movie — scheduled to be screened by the Toronto Jewish Film Foundation’s Chai Tea series on Sunday, December 10 at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, 5095 Yonge Street — unfolds in a prosperous suburb of Tel Aviv as three brothers grapple with their aged father’s complaint about an antenna on a neighbor’s roof.
Yehoshua (Alexander Peleg), the octogenarian in question, is convinced that radiation from the antenna is ruining his health. His obsession is driving everyone to distraction. His wife, Sara (Gila Almagor, an accomplished actress who has a very minor role here), is beside herself. Their three adult children, Leon, Effi and Itzik, who are enmeshed in their own problems, are swept into its vortex.
Leon (Ishai Golan), a middle-aged divorced father of one who teaches literature at a local college, is the central character. After being crushed by the news that a promotion he had counted on has gone to someone else, he’s subjected to physical stress by a major back ache. Leon perks up when one of his students, an aspiring novelist, seduces him. He’s flattered that a young, nubile woman desires him, but he can’t be certain whether it’s a serious affair or just a casual fling. Golan, his face weathered by disappointment, is effective as a world-weary man looking for a scintilla of happiness.
Effi (Michael Aloni), the youngest brother, is in flux too. Sara, not realizing he’s a drug dealer, wants him to get off his butt and start earning a living. She implores him to drive Yehoshua’s taxi, which sits idle in a garage, but he considers the job beneath his dignity. He would rather ride around on his bike selling pot to his regular customers. Ana, his German girlfriend, is pregnant with their child and feels alone and isolated. Effi aggravates her woes by refusing to introduce her to his parents. After Yehoshua accidentally meets Ana, he berates Effi for dating a German. “Water and oil don’t mix,” says Yehoshua, a Holocaust survivor who hasn’t forgiven Germans for their dalliance with Nazism. Aloni portrays Effi with aplomb.
Itzik (Mickey Leon), an army officer, is also angling for a promotion, but a minor slip has eroded his chances of moving up in the ranks. His relationship with his feisty wife, Neta, is problematic. There is even a sly suggestion that one of his brothers may be having an affair with Neta. And much to Neta’s anger, her pre-pubescent son has been expelled from school after having assaulted another boy in his class.
Concerned about his father’s mental condition, Itzik takes it upon himself to resolve the antenna problem. He asks Eli, the neighbor who owns the antenna, to get rid of it. Itzik assumes Eli will comply with his demand, but Eli is adamant. He’s locked into a ten-year contract and doesn’t want to pay the cancellation penalty. In the meantime, Yehoshua exacts vengeance on Eli, forcing the police to intervene. Leon and Peleg perform their respective roles with laser-like intensity.
Antenna seems to end on a hopeful note, but one can’t be certain of what the future holds in store for the three brothers and their partners.