"According to Box Office Mojo, this film grossed approximately $50,000 in U.S. first-run theater receipts, which means that if ever a movie qualifies an overlooked gem, this is it. Which is a shame. There's a bushelful of wonderful performances here, from lead Oshri Cohen to Esti Zakheim and Albert Iluz (as parents Ruhama and Robert respectively) to Yigal Naor as the gruff but kind-hearted headmaster.
And you've not lived until you've seen Aya Koren (as the young female lead) smile. Her beauty will take your breath away.
My wife and I tried to tell everyone about this movie, but it was so far under the radar, it slipped quickly from distribution in a jiffy. Please make every effort to see this beautiful film on DVD.
Produced, filmed and released in Israel under the title "Ha-Kochavim Shel Shlomi" ("The Stars of Shlomi"), Shemi Zarhin's bittersweet tale of a (highly) dysfunctional Israeli family is at times hilarious, at other times heart-rending. If you liked the wonderful Israeli film "Broken Wings," then Bonjour - a slightly lighter cup of tea - is definitely right up your alley.
Which reminds me, if you're in the mood, here's a quartet of recent Israeli films that ought to be on your immediate veiewing agenda (arranged in order of lightness, so you can prepare accordingly):
1. This one. 2. Broken Wings ("Knafayim Shvurot") 3. Time of Favor ("Ha-Hesder") 4. Kadosh (bleak! Not a casual viewing) "
A classic "Cinderella" story
Steven Sprague | Newport Beach, CA | 01/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""I wanted her to think I am fair, and pure are my hands, and clear is my mind." (Natan Alterman)
How can it be that people can live lives so entertwined and yet be so oblivious to the obvious? For Shlomi it's because he's far too focused upon others to consider himself, and for the others, they're far too focused on themselves to consider Shlomi. BONJOUR MONSIEUR SHLOMI has been called a "coming of age feature" but sadly, this sub-genre has become so burdened with garbage, it would be a disservice to relegate such a fine film to that wasteland. SHLOMI is a classic "Cinderella" story that is clever, funny, sad, romantic, charming and gets just about everything right. I started this review with some words from one of Israel's greatest poets, Natan Alterman, who's work plays an important role in this film and this line in particular acts as a blueprint for the way director Shemi Zarhin approaches his subject, and the way his subject approaches love. Shlomi is a 17 year old who is flunking most of his high-school classes and is generally considered by all (including his own family) to be intellectually handicapped. In reality, he's a math genius and musical prodigy. Shlomi lives in a dysfunctional family for which he has assumed the role of primary care giver, but despite his role he's almost completely taken for granted. Shlomi is a gifted cook, and this skill is his primary means of expression and the only weapon he possesses against the chaos that constantly threatens to consume his family life. Shlomi is in love with the beautiful 17-year-old that lives next door who is also an object of lust for his cocky, spoiled older brother. By itself, the plot could very easily have sunk into a mire of over-sentimentality and hormonal nausea (we've seen this film a hundred times before!) but SHLOMI manages to soar into the sky like the fading eyes of Shlomi's grandfather who lives in the past while pushing his grandson towards the future - a future filled with choices that are his alone. The acting by everyone in this film is convincing, the cinematography crisp, and the music infectious.
"Sometimes from the night we open astonished eyes and slowly we smile, out of our wisdom and folly. Mother's greyness looks at our lives, the silence of rooms where there is no child." (Natan Alterman) "
A Beautifully Written Story Brought to Sparkling Life!
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 03/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"BONJOUR, MONSIEUR SHLOMI is simply a wonderful film! Writer/Director Shemi Zarhin has created a story unlike any other and cast it with such consistently fine actors that it remains a puzzle to me that this film has not become an audience favorite throughout the world. It is intelligent, emotional, edifying, and warm, entertaining, and in all categories it is a winner.
Shlomi (Oshri Cohen, in a brilliantly understated performance) is a 16-year-old lad who takes care of his highly dysfunctional family: his mother (Esti Zakheim) is about as distasteful a shrew as ever concocted and in a constant state of ill temper because of her husband cheated on her, and because she is stuck working double shifts to support her ailing father-in-law (Ariek Elias, who as Shlomi's grandfather is a bright, funny, wise, loving old man who deeply cares for Shlomi); a married sister Ziva (Rotem Abuhab)who periodically moves back in to the house because of constant spats with her husband who doesn't help her care for their infant twin sons; his brother Sasi (Assi Cohen) whose life is loud electric guitars, braggadocio about female conquests, and the favorite son of his mother. Stir this mixture and the result is the penultimate dysfunctional family unit. Shlomi cooks gourmet meals for them, shops, cleans house, runs errands, bathes and cares for this grandfather and in general leads a life of submission to a family that views him as a 'retard'.
Shlomi longs for a girlfriend and practically fails his school because of his lack of time devoted to caring for his family and a lack of concentration. Serendipitously his math teacher Begin (Nisso Keavia) notes his natural mathematic genius on a discarded test, and with the aid of the headmaster (Yigal Nair) the two encourage him to be tested and discover that he is a genius (?with dyslexsia?) and arrange for him to try for a special school in Haifa. Shlomi's mother will hear none of it but between fights with Shlomi's absentee father (Albert Iluz) and confrontations with the teacher and headmaster they finally consent to his testing for the school.
Meanwhile Shlomi discovers a girl his age Rona (Aya Koren) who has moved in next door and gradually the two become intertwined in a physical and intellectual relationship. Always in the background is the support of Shlomi's grandfather, and when the grandfather dies, Shlomi sets off on the journey to live his life for himself, to realize his gifts, to find his happiness. The manner in which the family comes to grips with this is the peak of the movie and need not be revealed for the sake of loosing the power of the message.
The film is beautifully photographed, the musical score is creatively lovely, and the final result is one of exaltation of the human spirit. Highly recommended on every level. In Hebrew with English subtitles. Grady Harp, March 05
James T. Kent | Cincinnati, Ohio USA | 12/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an incredible movie - I don't know why everyone isn't talking about it! I've never seen a movie that did such a good job at getting into the mind of a teenage boy. My wife told me she wants to watch it again - she never says that!
OK. This isn't about a good cook and a boy genius like the other reviewers suggest. It's about being a teenager, having doubts about yourself, trying to discover who you will be, and a special person who sets you on your way. It's also about wanting to be loved and being loved.
I rented it. Now I'm buying it."
Shlomi warms the heart
B.H. Turtle | Detroit, MI, USA | 02/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The NY Times slammed this movie... I loved it. Is may be implausibly sweet, but it felt so good that I watched it twice. Human, loving, and an antidote to the violence we are buffeted by."