by George Wolf
From its opening shot – a slow, dizzying swirl above a patterned kitchen floor – Foxtrot commits to a cornerstone of disorientation. Through both narrative and camerawork, writer/director Samuel Maoz keeps you off balance as he constructs a deep, moving dive into one family’s struggle with loss and regret.
Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray), a soldier in the Israeli Army, is going about his mundane duties in a remote outpost when a tragic twist of fate occurs. Jonathan’s father Michael (Lior Ashkenazi delivering his usual excellence) and mother Daphna (Sarah Adler – also terrific) take the news of the accident, along with the news of a second, very unexpected development, very differently.
Maoz’s visuals, sometimes anachronistic, bold and darkly funny, are never less than fascinating. His writing is incisive and brilliantly layered, confidently moving toward a shattering finale without stopping to worry about whether you’re connecting every loose end.
Just when you may think you know where Maoz is going, you don’t. But the rug isn’t pulled by cheap gimmickry or emotional manipulation, but rather perfectly arranged pieces assembled by deeply affecting performances.
Like its namesake, a dance that will always lead you to “end up in the same place,” Foxtrot can be viewed from different angles with equal impact. You might see a sociopolitical statement on the filmmaker’s home country, a universal parable on the costs of war, or a starkly intimate take on family bonds.
Let it in, and this film will reveal layers of meaning and a lasting grip. Through Foxtrot, Maoz and his stellar performers are speaking with a stylish and bittersweet elegance.