Winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes, Keren Yedaya’s unflinching first feature Or (My Treasure) is compiled entirely from motionless long shots meant to emphasize the agonizing daily grind of a teenage Israeli girl, Or (Dana Ivgi), and her prostitute mother, Ruthie (Late Marriage‘s Ronit Elkabetz). The film begins with the 16-year-old picking up her mother from the hospital and locking her inside their apartment before trudging to work at a restaurant managed by her young boyfriend’s family. Characters frequently walk in and out the film’s claustrophobic frames, but because Yedaya’s camera never budges, their bodies are fractured time and time again. Yes, the edges of Yedaya’s formal compositions are seemingly unaccommodating, but her gaze is unmistakably tender. Or (My Treasure) is largely about the wear and tear of the female body, and in the film’s more frank sequences (Ruthie comes home with blood between her legs; Or taking a shower), Yedaya evokes women prepping for and salving the pressure of male aggression. In the film’s best sequence (the mother of Or’s boyfriend tells Ruthie that her daughter may be prostituting herself), Yedaya summons the unspoken compassion between the film’s women; as for Or’s rationale for the sacrifices she begins to make in order to protect her mother from the allure of the streets, it’s similarly unsaid but clearly felt. But Or (My Treasure) shares problems with its kindred spirit, Lukas Moodysoon’s Lilja 4-ever, in that both films starve for a strong political perspective. Yedaya is clearly interested in the role of women in Tel Aviv, but the city—not unlike its callous men—remains anonymous. The director clearly has a feminist agenda, but when she fails to conflate the film’s sexual unease with larger social issues, Or (My Treasure)‘s sexual paranoia begins to reek of exploitation.
The image is pasty and grainy throughout but fitting given the milieu of the film. Dialogue is reasonably clear but the effects sound a little hot.
A making-of featurette compiles 28 minutes' worth of behind-the-scenes footage from the film; it's completely structureless, but it's preferably to the unimaginative, junket-style featurettes attached to your average DVD release of mainstream films. Rounding things off is a stills gallery and trailers for The Overture, Kippur, and Kadosh.
A flawed work about prostitution and a frayed mother-daughter union in Israel that's at least worth a rental.