CANNES – “Let other directors do less hard films.”
That was Israeli director Keren Yedaya’s statement to the audience before the premiere of her crushing new film, “That Lovely Girl,” at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday night.
The movie tells the story of Tami’s (Maayan Turjeman) horrific incestuous relationship with her father Moshe (Tzahi Grad), a relationship that has turned her into a bulimic and a cutter.
Tami is a young woman who lives with her middle-aged father in a small apartment in Tel Aviv, waiting on him hand and foot. When he is away at work, she cooks dinner, cleans the apartment, and sits in silence. When he returns, he belittles her for her weight, and violently rapes her. Yet her abusive father is all she thinks and cares about: Tami is Stockholm Syndrome personified.
The only emotional outlets she has are through binging and purging and through self-mutilation. In two horrific scenes, Tami stuffs herself with sweets and with a pot full of rice. Yedaya stays on Tami in a single shot through each interminable binging episode. In another, she slices her arm to ribbons. Turjeman’s gut-wrenching performance is like a highway pileup: you don’t want to look, but can’t turn away.
For all of her film’s grotesqueries, director Yedaya tries hard not to exploit them. The film deals with the constant rapes, bloody cuttings, and Tami’s trips to the bathroom to vomit up her food with matter-of-fact restraint, like she’s building a pyramid of tragedy, brick by monotonous brick.
In the second half of the film, when Tami’s father flaunts another relationship in her face, a relationship Tami refers to as “an affair,” she makes several attempts at escape with the help of a kind stranger Shuli (Yael Abecassis), but the pull of her life with her father acts like an evil tractor beam.
In the end, even with Shuli’s help, nothing good happens to Tami.
“[This movie] speaks about very important things, about the taboo that is incest,” Yedaya said at the premiere. “This is a very hard film.”