A perpetual state of emergency reigns over Israel, where amid the hectic pace of events, it’s best to take things slowly. “Day by day” is the literal translation for Yom Yom, Israeli director Amos Gitai’s deadpan farce about the jumble of urban life in his hometown of Haifa.
Made three years ago, Yom Yom is set in a time of moral and political confusion that seems almost idyllic by today’s inflamed standards. Hypochondriacal Moshe (Moshe Ivgi), the son of a Jewish mother (Hanna Maron) and an Arab Israeli father (Yussef Abu Warda), fantasizes about his doctor, while he’s ambivalently married to Didi (Dalit Kahan) and having an affair with Grisha (Nataly Atiya), a gorgeous Russian hairdresser. He’s unaware that his best friend (Juliano Mer) is also involved with both women. The film is structured as a series of vignettes: Should Yussef (Moshe’s father) sell his childhood home to an Israeli developer? Should Moshe and Didi stay together? These small dilemmas play out against the backdrop of a much greater morass—where is the country headed? From her perch high above events, Mimi (Keren Mor), a traffic controller, watches over the chaos bemusedly.
Part of a trilogy of films Gitai devoted to Israel’s three main cities, Yom Yom draws upon Haifa’s tradition of peaceful coexistence between Arab and Jewish neighbors to tell a darkly comic tale of characters riven by divided loyalties and neurotic inhibitions. The vivid portraits of Israeli social types, whether arrogant reservists or hapless nebbishes, stand in sharp contrast to images promoted in the media. Gitai’s genius is to show the conflict infiltrating every encounter, from the marketplace to the bedroom and beyond. Grisha seduces Moshe while discussing the ceding of the Golan Heights to Syria; Moshe’s automobile grazes a pedestrian, whose hair-trigger temper flares into violence. “Look at this country, it looks just like you,” Moshe says to the enraged man banging on the hood of his car. Let’s hope he’s wrong.