Tickling Leo Adds to Holocaust Film Grammar of Succeeding Generations


A new Holocaust film grammar is forming about what it means to be a succeeding generation, suspended between the impulse to forget and the urgent need to remember—and to understand how suppressed memories have warped families. I don’t know how close writer-director Jeremy Davidson’s own family is to the Shoah, but his debut feature is a perceptive example of the subgenre. On Yom Kippur, Zak Pikler (Daniel Sauli) reluctantly takes his pregnant girlfriend, Delphina (Annie Parisse), to visit his estranged father, Warren (the excellent Lawrence Pressman), a poet succumbing to paranoia and his tortured past in a Catskills lakeside home. Davidson weaves deeper questions of who a Jew is into this powerful tale of a clan shredded by the rage and hatred passed down through three generations. Shot in digital video, Tickling Leo gradually reveals a secret about one of those terrible wartime bargains with the Third Reich that saved a few Jews while sealing the fate of an entire community. Davidson handles the material with candor, sensitivity, and a goodness and mercy that’s entirely absent from the showy self-pity of Boaz Yakin’s recent Death in Love.