One Week and a Day: Does time heal?
by Andrea Chung
- Taking home top prizes at the Jerusalem Film Festival, Asaph Polonsky’s feature debut paints a poignant portrait of how we can move on after a huge loss
Directed by Asaph Polonsky, One Week and a Day is an Israeli film that premiered at Cannes 2016 in the Critics’ Week section and, more recently, screened in competition at the Jerusalem Film Festival, winning the FIPRESCI Award for Best Israeli Debut, the Haggiag Award for Best Israeli Feature Film, as well as the Anat Pirchi Award for Best Script.
The film takes place over just two days – the last day of Vicky and Eyal’s son’s shiva, a traditional Jewish mourning period following one’s funeral, and the day after shiva ended. Vicky and Eyal lost their son, who was still in his mid-twenties, to cancer, and the story follows them as they mourn and struggle to get back to everyday life. While Vicky attempts to push herself through her appointments and responsibilities – heading back to work, tutoring a student, and going to the dentist – Eyal is preoccupied with finding his son’s blanket, which he believes was left at the hospice, and getting high on the medical cannabis he took from there. Polonsky uses the cannabis as an opportunity for gags, showing Eyal trying to hide it in his fly, and his failed attempt to roll a joint. But more importantly, it is also a means of showing just how deep the sorrow is, prompting Eyal to venture into a realm so unfamiliar to him. After staying up for hours but still being unable to roll a joint successfully, Eyal enlists the help of his neighbour’s son, referred to by his last name, Zooler, the following morning. The two families used to be close, but after Eyal’s son fell ill, they seldom interact with each other, besides phoney acts of courtesy. Yet surprisingly, as the two of them spend more time together and encounter other characters, Eyal becomes a lot more prepared to move on.
This is not a comedy that will make the audience laugh. Instead, we smile, a smile sometimes tinged with unease, empathetic towards the protagonists’ situation. Visually, one sequence stands out in the film: when Eyal rushes to the cemetery wanting to reserve the plots next to his son so that he and his wife can be buried there, he runs into a funeral, at which a man is giving his eulogy to his younger sister. As we hear his words, we see a montage of the man cleaning bird droppings from his car’s windscreen, and eventually breaking down. Polonsky’s choice of using the montage is well thought through, as it not only provides the audience with a break from the otherwise flat and consistent visuals, but also gives us a glimpse of Eyal’s inner emotion through the man’s exertion. Furthermore, it acts as a transition point for the story – it was as if hearing the eulogy gave Eyal an epiphany, making him realise that he should start getting himself together.
In this poignant tale about mourning, we are invited to explore how people could possibly get back on their feet after a huge loss. They say that time heals all wounds, but in this case, Eyal finds his way back through the people surrounding him.
The film was produced by Black Sheep Film Productions and is distributed in France and the US by Sophie Dulac Distribution and Oscilloscope, respectively.