How would one go about approaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a way that transcends the history and politics and delves deeper towards our shared humanity? Not an easy task, but one that writer-director Lorraine Lévy has achieved with great aplomb in the remarkable and profound The Other Son. The high concept premise is quite ingenious. When 18-year-old Joseph takes a blood test in preparation for military service, it reveals that he cannot be the biological son of his two parents, French physician Orith and Israeli army commander Alon. A subsequent visit to the Haifa hospital where he was born resolves the mystery: Joseph was switched at birth with Yassin, the child of a Palestinian family on the West Bank.
The film examines how both families grapple with this bombshell and how they reconcile with having raised and loved the son of their adversary. Despite its melodramatic setup, the film avoids sentimentality and through a focus on familial relationships, shows the human cost of the conflict. You cannot watch this film without feeling deeply for both families as their most primal relationships are being upended.
While nothing can dampen both mothers’ love for their children, it is the other family members, particularly the fathers that have the most trouble adapting to this new reality. Everyone is forced to reconsider their identities, values and beliefs. Restrained and nuanced performances from the entire multinational cast (led by Emmanuelle Davos as Orith) elevate this memorable and touching family drama into an unforgettable viewing experience. A must-see for parents and for grown children. In other words, for everyone.