My wife and I just saw this 2010 Israeli film directed by Avi Nesher and based on a novel by Amir Gutfreund. It is a coming of age film about a sixteen year old boy growing up in Haifa. During the summer of 1968 Arik gets a job working for Yankele Bride - a grizzled, scar-faced individual who it turns out was a childhood friend of Arik’s father in Romania. Yankele Bride’s public business, located in a seedy part of the city, is that of matchmaker. Yankele goes to public parks and hands out his card advertising his services. He hires Arik to spy on prospective matches for his clients to make sure that they are suitable. Yankele also runs a smuggling business and together with his female friend Clara runs a small time gambling activity in Clara’s apartment in the evenings. There are a variety of other characters in the movie including Arik’s love interest Tamara - the rebellious American cousin of his best friend Benny; Sylvia – a member of a family of dwarfs who run a movie theater near Yankele’s office – who has retained Yankele to find her a match, and Meir the librarian who also has retained Yankele’s services but ends up being obsessed with Clara.
At first the movie seems like it is going to be a spoof about this motley crew of characters and their romantic intrigues. In reality, the movie ends up being quite the opposite. Many of the characters share a common searing bond: Arik’s father, Yankele, Clara, and Sylvia and her family all survived the holocaust. The movie is actually about how these individuals attempt to care for each other and for others in need while at the same time being misunderstood, and at times vilified, by the surrounding society.
Matchmaker is a sensitive portrayal of individuals who have survived the unimaginable attempting to cope with the past and the present. I recommend seeing it.
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