The story of how two women navigate a forbidden love affair in the tight-knit religious North London Jewish community.
After hearing her estranged Rabbi father has passed away while on set in New York, British photographer Ronit (Rachel Weisz) stumbles through a drunken and dazed night out of drinking and casual sex before she catches a plane back to London so she can mourn with the ultra-orthodox Jewish community she escaped years before.
While not welcomed back with open arms, Ronit does reconnect with childhood friends Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), her father’s protege and spiritual son, and Esti (Rachel McAdams), who in the years since she fled London married has Dovid, and stays with them while in the U.K. - though Esti is far less welcoming than her husband.
As Ronit gets reacquainted with her old life, it’s obvious she didn’t leave London on good terms - a fact that comes boldly into focus when Esti accompanies her to her father’s house, which he’s left to the synagogue and not his daughter.
It’s here the devout wife, who wears the mandatory wig all religious Jewish women wear, steals a deeply passionate embrace with her old friend.
It becomes instantly clear that there was once more than friendship between the pair, and distance and time has done little to diminish their feelings for one another.
The stolen kiss opens up something both sensual and sweet, erotic but pure in these two women, and despite the watchful, and often claustrophobic, gaze of their secular community, Ronit and Esti set out to finish something they started many years before – the very thing that forced the bohemian photographer to flee in the first place.
The central plot, the love affair, isn’t kept a secret – just look at the promotional posters of Weisz and McAdams in an embrace – but what Chilean director and co-writer Sebastian Lelio, in his English-language debut, delves into is the ramifications of being free to love whoever you want has on a tight-knit community.
Same-sex relationships are forbidden in many religious communities, including the Jewish one, and we watch as Esti, a wonderful McAdams, confronts feelings she has buried for so long.
The sex scene between the leads, a tender and emotional affair which involves a spit sequence that's got everyone talking, is the opposite to gratuitous – it feels real and raw and charged with a passion McAdams and Weisz nail completely.
Like Adams, Weisz is excellent, as is Nivola as the kind but conflicted Dovid.
Based on the novel by Naomi Alderman, Disobedience is a quietly powerful drama which shines a light on forbidden love as well as what it means to abide by the ancient laws of religion in modern day society.
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