Visually controlled, emotionally precise and dramatically intricate, Keren Yedaya’s Or (My Treasure) combines uncompromising realism with compassionate storytelling. Winner of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival Caméra d’Or for best debut film, Or is the work of an “uncommonly sensitive” filmmaker who delivers “walloping irony” (Time Out New York) without resorting to audacious showmanship or self-conscious technique.
Or (Dana Ivgy), a pretty and popular Tel Aviv high school student, works nights at a neighborhood restaurant while taking her first tentative steps out of innocence and into first love. But Or’s real full-time job is looking after her mother Ruthie (Ronit Elkabetz, Late Marriage). After 20 dehumanizing years of curbside prostitution, Ruthie’s survival instincts have begun to deteriorate, and it’s up to Or to see that mother and daughter don’t both wind up on the street together. Or’s love, loyalty and resourcefulness are put to the test as Ruthie’s compulsive self-destructiveness keeps driving her back into prostitution. As the cruel realities of marginalized city life multiply, Or is forced to choose between her mother’s bottomless needs and having an uncorrupted life of her own.
A harrowing urban chronicle and a subtle coming of age journey, Or is a truly modern tragedy that plays out inside dark apartment blocks, under cold neon lights and in shadowy back alleys. Yedaya’s graceful directorial restraint and Dana Ivgy’s and Ronit Elkabetz’s “unflinching performances” (The New York Post) give Or an intimacy that sidesteps preachy social outrage and knee jerk moralizing, while savagely indicting street prostitution as the degrading modern-day slavery that it is. –Kino