Israeli Film Festival: Intimate Grammar review

Writer/director Nir Bergman (one of the forces behind the hit Israeli television series BeTipul, remade by HBO as In Treatment) adapts acclaimed author David Grossman’s 1991 coming of age novel, The Book of Intimate Grammar.  11-year-old Aharon lives with his dysfunctional family in a low income Jerusalem housing development in the early 1960s just prior to the Six-Day War.  His elderly grandmother is senile, his teenage sister is insecure, his father is easily distracted, and his mother is an overbearing, often mean-spirited busybody.  Aharon has bigger problems though, namely his slow rate of maturation, which remains far behind that of his classmates throughout the course of the three years featured in the film.  It’s a rather standard familial drama told from a youthful point of view until it moves forward in time and explores the burgeoning thoughts and desires of the early teen.  Aharon learns to distrust those around him:  his family, his friends, his first crush.  He is completely self-aware and thus self-absorbed, agonizing over both his stunted height and the lack of available answers to life’s big questions.  He begins to cling to his childhood, cataloging his memories in a fruitless effort to avoid following the adults on their unavoidable paths towards meaningless deaths.

Both sincere and thought-provoking, Intimate Grammar is an accurate and affecting portrayal of the preoccupations of youth.

Intimate Grammar opens the 16th annual Israeli Film Festival this Saturday, February 25 at 8:00 PM at the International House.  An additional screening will be held at the same venue the following day, Sunday, February 26, at 3:00 PM.

Official site.

Author: Eric Bresler

Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.

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