April 27, 2018 114 minutes R

Passionate, emotionally resonant performances that engage even as the story pulls its punches.

With two of this generation’s top female actors the 2017 drama ‘Disobedience‘ cuts deep. However, it refuses to take the risks necessary to reach true greatness.

Upon her father’s death Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns to her once Jewish Orthodox community. An unacceptable attraction to childhood friend Esti (Rachel McAdams) had forced her to leave years ago. Now, upon returning she finds that Esti has married Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), another childhood friend who has taken Ronit’s father’s place as this strict community’s spiritual leader. Well, you can guess what comes next…

The simmering subsurface tension between Ronit and Esti is palpable. So when the inevitable giving in to passion moment is fully realized things are boiling over. One of the most beautifully raw love-making scenes I’ve seen on film in a long time. Wow.

Yet, this film’s lack of genuine surprise left me wanting more. Had ‘Disobedience‘ been released even a few years ago I might have felt different. But, with a recent surge of LBGT themed “forbidden love” stories a formula has been well-established. And many of the boxes simply get checked as we go along.

And with religion as the core crux of contention I expected more hesitation from the long-faithful Esti about the consequences for disobeying her god. Yet, most of the pushback comes by way of the community’s mortified, intolerant reactions to the behavior and not to the disrespect shown their faith. A touchy subject, for sure. But, one that demands, at least, acknowledgement and some honest discussion.

Still filmmaker Sebastián Lelio keeps our focus tightly on these characters’ whirlwind of emotions and leaves most of the outside world alone. With good reason, the awe-inspiring acting and all-consuming chemistry between Weisz and McAdams stand perfectly fine without distraction.

The 2017 forbidden love drama ‘Disobedience‘ may not be breaking new ground. Yet, you’re unlikely to find more passionate romance or better performances anywhere else.


Passion and drama overflow in this under-cooked story of forbidden love. If only great acting alone could make a great film. Alas, it’ll have to do.

About the Author
Chad Schulz