Shlomo hopes to teach his teenaged son Assaf (Chen Yann) a lesson, after he discovers women’s clothing and accessories in Assaf’s room, where he trashes his son’s paintings in a fit of rage. Shlomo ignores the knocks at the door and the screams of Assaf, returned from a party, who begs to be let into the house. His mother Galya’s silent consent seals the gesture, and Assaf leaves. Shlomo thinks that a few days on the street will put priorities straight for Assaf, that he might give up his art and focus on practical lifestyles, but the plan backfires in a big way. Four years pass without a word, save for rumors that Assaf was living in Australia. Galya hires an investigator to find her son and bring him to Shlomo, now dying of cancer. Assaf, now Anna, is seen performing in a Tel Aviv nightclub as a beautiful transgender woman singer. She has no interest in seeing her parents whose last act was one of hate and intolerance. Anna’s choices theereafter, and their impact on her fractured family, are at the core of the film’s drama as she introduces herself into the mix without anyone knowing.
With a touch of Neil Jordan’s Breakfast On Pluto and a dash of Almodovar’s Talk To Her, Doron Eran’s film is touching and roundly realized, without the sentimentality of the former or the melodrama of the latter. He explores not only a family’s reaction to their son’s identity struggle, but also their reaction to their reaction. It is a film about regret, redemption, expectation met and unmet. Its about the secrets we keep in order to be kind, and about the ultimate adaptability of the human heart. Melting Away is an important film for many reasons, but perhaps most of all because of how tactfully the subject matter is explored. The drama is not derived from the sensation of transgender culture, or from the mistake of classifying it as a counter-culture, but instead forms from the intimate source of one family forced to deal with that very reality. Eran isolates in the first act, what many other filmmakers would have drawn out as the main arc. Instead, he uses the bulk of the film to reveal a different kind of drama, one in which a rich emotional complexity is allowed to unfold rather than be exploited. Melting Away is all the more dynamic because of Eran’s intelligence as a dramatist.
Melting Away screens this Saturday, March 31 at 8:45 PM at Drexel University as part of the 16th annual Israeli Film Festival.