Review: Mendy: A Question of Faith

Ivan Sandomire’s fine performance as Mendy makes this one impossible to dismiss.

Mendy: A Question of Faith

Ask anyone what “choreography” means and they might respond, “The art of orchestrating dance.” Ask a Brazilian expat who used to strip for money and you might get the word broken down to its Greek origins. This is Bianca (Gabriela Dias), not so much a member of the real world as she is a figment of a writer-director’s imagination: a character that’s defined entirely by her racial and sexual agency and who exists solely to supply the titular Hassid of Adam Vardy’s video production with his polar opposite. Bianca’s blanket exoticism and Vardy’s non-aesthetic won’t win this film any fans, but Ivan Sandomire’s fine performance as Mendy makes this one impossible to dismiss. Vardy awkwardly latches on to his lead character’s insular-to-secular metamorphosis way past its point of initiation, with no real sense of the when and how, but Sandomire, who could be Heath Ledger’s leaner, more attractive older brother, sells a credible bloom. It’s not just the broken English that’s richly detailed, but his really intense body language, which suggests a small creature trying to find its sea legs. Vardy, who conveys a number of airport scenes using only still photographs, clearly pinched his production pennies, spending what must have been a good chunk of his enchilada on a lovely series of scenes in Brazil that encapsulates—sweetly, silently, and with unpretentious reverence—the difficultly with which people try to define themselves as spiritual beings on their own terms.

 Cast: Ivan Sandomire, Gabriela Dias, Spencer Chandler, Deana Barone, Jonathan Hova, Elizabeth Cano, Kristen Cecala, Isaac Stein, Uzi Parnes  Director: Adam Vardy  Screenwriter: Adam Vardy  Running Time: 93 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2003  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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