Director: Boaz Yakin Screenplay: Boaz Yakin – Music: Lesley Barber Editing: Arthur Coburn Costumes: Ellen Lutter Cast: Renee Zellweger, Christopher Eccleston, Julianna marguiles, Allen Payne, Glenn Fitzgerald, Shelton Dane Producer: Lawrence Bender Running Time: 117 minutes
Director Boaz Yakin, after the success of the movie “Fresh” (1994) comes up again with a second interesting film.
Sonia (Renee Zellweger) is a young woman that grew up in a Jewish Orthodox community in America and was educated in the respect of the hard and strict Bible rules. Her life reflects what her parents wanted for her: she’s married to Mendel, a young, learned, deeply religious teacher, she gave birth to a son, she lives in a decent house among the Jewish Orthodox community in New York.
Apparently Sonia’s life has no problems, but deep in herself she feels that her house, her family, her married sexual life can’t satisfy her: she must fight constantly her inner passions and her sexual needs that become, as the time goes by, impetuous and uncontrollable.
Sonia starts an adulterous and distressing relationship with her brother-in-law Sender, with who she has cold and hostile sexual experiences. But these same experiences make Sonia think about herself, her real needs as a person and as a woman and pushes her to start a business in the jewel trade.
This job will allow her to know the world outside the Jewish Orthodox community and as she will discover a world different from the one she grew up in, she’ll have to fight with her husband, her family, her community, and with her inner self to refuse the taboos and conquer the freedom she wants.
Boaz Yakin directed the movie with tact and carefulness, as a Jew educated into the New York Yashiva schools he wrote a screenplay that never lacks of coherence and reflects the real way Jewish Orthodox people express themselves. The setting reproduces carefully the Jewish Orthodox interiors (with the glass doors to divide rooms for example or the plastic covers to protect the upholstery), the actors speak with the right accents, and dress as people do in Borough Park, for example).
The story is told from Sonia’s point of view. Sonia refuses her own education and places her own needs before the needs of the community she lives in. She can’t sacrifice herself for a familiar stability, or the stability of her community. The movie then , opens a very old discussion (let’s think about the Sophocle’s “Antigon”) that is still very modern: are the needs and the beliefs of a single person more important than the ones of the community we live in? Is it right to sacrifice the family stability and emotionality, the “respectability”, to get your own freedom? Are the laws given by the community that guarantee, for good and for bad, the stability of the same community more important than the personal beliefs and aspirations, or dreams? And what price should a person pay to have broken the rules?
Sonia, like Antigon, answers this question in an individualistic way and pays a very high price: she looses her son, the love of her family and relatives, her financial security. She becomes an heroin at all levels because she has the courage to see herself for what she is and bear the consequences.
The movie has no rhetoric, Boaz Yakin doesn’t want to judge the Jewish orthodox way of living. He seems to tell us that if you belong, because of your culture, or education, or personal beliefs to a certain community, and you don’t feel the need to change, nobody has the right to say if your way of living is right or wrong. But if you’re “different”, to live in the wrong community, and not having the courage to react and take another “path”, is wrong. Through the words of the characters in the movie we can understand that the director is telling us that if a belief is deep and true, it has to be always respected: Sonia’s husband is a true believer, and a good person, he understands his wife and at the end of the movie he accepts the fact that his wife can’t live with him anymore because she’s deeply different. The Rabbi’s wife too understands Sonia and helps her to get her ring back.
“A Price above the Rubies” is a movie to watch to ask ourselves more questions about where we belong and how do we accept the community we live in.