Movie Review: Israeli melodrama “Broken Mirrors” takes guilt to its generational extremes

Ariela is 16, looks 14, and is all about risk and rebellion.

We meet her (Shira Haas) as she’s recklessly riding, strapped to the roll bar of a fellow Israeli teen’s pickup. They roll up at a construction site rave, where she knocks back a few.

But 1130 turns her serious. She’s got to go home. NOW. Nobody’s leaving? That means she and her coochie-cutter shorts are walking to the nearest highway to hitchhike home.

Her Army officer dad (Yiftach Klein) isn’t fooled by her wardrobe change. Mom (Renana Raz) may cover for her, but he’s not buying that, either.

His barely-controlled fury about what happens “when men see you” on the streets, “half-naked, in the middle of the night” (in Hebrew, with English subtitles) leads to “punishment,” his idea of what will “nip it in the bud.”

He shreds her shirt and cuts the legs off the jeans she slipped into to cover up her transgression. She will stand, outside their apartment, on the street, all night in that get-up so that strangers will “compliment you on your promiscuity!”

“Broken Mirrors” is a domestic melodrama about guilt, ways to grapple with it or avoid dealing with it, and about the many forms and directions “punishment” can take.

Over-the-top touches and a big fat coincidence earn it the “melodrama” label. But it’s still a modestly gripping story of remorse mixed with revenge.

Because Ariela is headed for a fall. It comes when she sulks her permissive, just-wants-to-be-loved mother into letting her practice driving on a back road the next day. We sit and watch and watch for the shoe to drop, the hammer to fall, the car to jump forward, knock her mother down and put her in a coma.

Ariela gets her to the hospital, gets the stern “You’re already punishing yourself” lecture from her father, snaps that she will find a way to top that, and runs away. Guilt-ridden Ariela is hellbent on self-injury. And if getting raped, her father’s biggest fear, is the result, it’s worth it for the pain it will cause him.

Writer-directors Aviad Givon and Imri Matalon set up our expectations and sympathies, and then cut the legs right from under them in this tight chamber tragedy.

Whatever we feel about the fury that Ariela masks her guilt with, whatever fears we have for her safety with her every encounter with men, or as she marches into a literal field-of-traps, even empathetic teen viewers should be thinking “This is a bit much.”

“Why did you step in this area?” 20ish farmer Ben (Yoan Rotman) wants to know as he frees her from a leg-trap.

“Because the sign said NOT to!”

But father Giora’s authoritarian “actions have consequences” streak has origins that go beyond military discipline. That word we hear and read in opinion pieces the U.S. — “projecting” — comes to mind.

Haas, a former Israeli child star, doesn’t play a lot of notes here. But Ariela’s scowl is so omnipresent that her attempts at turning “Lolita” come off as more than just clumsily childish. The character not only doesn’t know how to play “loose” to men. She is even worse at hiding her self-loathing and guilt.

Every minute that “Broken Mirrors” isn’t zeroing in on this confused, self-destructive kid Haas plays is a minute wasted.

2half-star6

MPAA Rating: unrated, sexual situations, profanity, teen binge drinking

Cast: Shira Haas, Yiftach Klein, Renana Raz and Yoav Rotman

Credits: Written and directed by Aviad Givon and Imri Matalon. A Level 33 release.

Running time: 1:39

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