San Diego Jewish Film Festival preview: ‘A Shabbos Mother’
The film centers on a widow, Miriam, and her three daughters, Yael, Cheli, and Ella. Yael, the oldest sister and radio announcer, shows up for the Shabbos meal just 20 minutes before the lighting of the candles. She goes out on a date at 11:00 p.m. on Friday night after the Shabbos meal. She removes a rubber band from her hair as she confides to her sister, Cheli, her date doesn’t know she lives in a religious neighborhood.
Meanwhile Ella is pregnant and married to Kobi. Ella complains about Kobi, he withdraws. When Ella starts having contractions, Kobi starts to show some concern for his wife. Miriam treats her with favoritism because she is married and pregnant. Miriam disregards whether the marriage is loving.
Cheli has chosen to live according to Orthodox Judaism. She married Dudi, who studies to become a rabbi during the day and cleans synagogues at night. The couple have a loving respectful marriage. They both have feelings of disappointment because Cheli has not been able to become pregnant during the past year despite fertility treatments. Cheli confides to Ella that she envies that Ella is pregnant. Ella is envious because Cheli would love to be a mom but Ella fears that she won’t know how to handle a baby.
The story unfolds as Cheli and Dudi discuss whether or not to ask Miriam to borrow money to see a private female physician. Dudi mentions a passage in the Talmud which states whoever gives you money, buys you.
Yael overhears the couple’s conversation and offers Cheli some money she had been saving to buy a car. Cheli refuses the offer.
The mother criticizes Cheli’s chosen lifestyle. During one Shabbas weekend she finds fault with her daughter in many instances. The mother does not understand why Celli and Dudi walked to her house instead of calling to get a ride. Cheli brought home-made challas, which everyone likes. Miriam tells her “You shouldn’t have bothered. We have enough food.” In response Cheli turns to her husband, Dudi, and says “I told you she’d say that.”
Cheli asked her mother to leave the light on so Dudi could study. The mother neglected to fulfill her daughter’s request. Tension mounts as Miriam inspects the glass Cheli has already washed. Cheli then examines the lettuce leaf Miriam has washed.
Cheli takes a stand about how her mom has been picking on her all weekend.
“Why can’t you understand me? Why can’t you look at me? See who I am?” said Cheli… “You don’t even want my challahs. You criticize me all day long. Nothing I do is good enough.”
After Ella gives birth, Miriam notices the baby has her late husband’s nose.
It is as if his soul lives on in the new grandchild.
Miriam then softens toward Cheli and Dudi because she realized the couple helped Ella and Kobi through the delivery.
The film concludes with Yael saying “They say Shabbos embraces a new soul.” Maybe this time it will.
“A Shabbos Mother” will play on Monday, February 15th at AMC la Jolla 12 at 4:00 p.m.
Appel-Lennon is a San Diego-based freelance writer. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org