The minimalist A Strange Course of Events presents a prickly family dynamic punctuated by moments that could’ve been funny or dramatic in a different film but feel inert here. Its emotions prove curiously inconsistent, hinting at darkness but never committing fully.
Bored night nurse Shaul (Ori Pfeffer) visits his long-estranged father, Shimon (Moni Moshonov), and the older man’s hippie-ish girlfriend, Bati (Michaela Eshet). Eschewing blowouts in favor of tense, uncomfortable set pieces, the film simultaneously serenades viewers with a calming flute score. The beauty of the music — one of the movie’s more compelling elements — contrasts with director Raphaël Nadjari’s otherwise understated style: his pale palette, uncrowded compositions, and close-ups of still objects.
We never quite get a handle on why or how Shaul and Shimon’s relationship became so sour; Nadjari prefers to suggest the specifics through metaphor. When Shaul, Shimon, and Bati all go out for dinner for the first time, the camera lingers on a whole fish on the table, the vaguely menacing meal underscoring the threesome’s discomfort.
Later, a preoccupied Shaul trips over a slimy fish that’s fallen off a monger’s cart, injuring himself severely. In the wake of that, his daughter comes to visit, and, true to form, this other parent-child relationship likewise offers us little to feel for or care about.
A Strange Course of Events
Directed by Raphaël Nadjari
Opens February 26, Cinema Village