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Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Nelly Tagar as Daffi. Photographer: Yaron Scharf
2014, 96 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

This review was originally published during the Tribeca Film Festival in April. The film opened today at Film Forum in NYC.

Winner of the Tribeca Film Festival's Best Narrative Feature Award and Nora Ephron Prize, Talya Lavie's Zero Motivation is the most entertaining movie about boredom ever made.  The film tells the story of a group of young women serving in the IDF at a desert station in Israel.  The women are petty, bratty, rotten, and selfish, all of these delightful qualities emphasized by the fact that they are bored working in an office all day.

In addition to being the most entertaining movie about boredom ever made, this is the most apolitical movie about the IDF ever made.  In most Israeli or Palestinian films I've seen, particularly those about the army, there's always some kind of political slant (and I've seen films that have leaned towards every side of that conflict), but Zero Motivation zeroes in on the pettiness of the soldiers' everyday lives as they complain, fight, and try to beat each other's Minesweeper scores.

The film is told in three parts through the eyes of two characters, Daffi (Nelly Tagar) and Zohar (Dana Ivgy).  There isn't one narrative through-line for Zero Motivation, but rather the film is told in little anecdotes, each funnier than the next.  The actresses all give strong performances.  Their comedic timing is impeccable.

Almost every single character in this film is unlikable, which is what makes them infinitely compelling.  They're live wires which means they're extremely unpredictable.  These women literally have zero motivation to succeed or to support their country.  They are constantly reminded that their fellow soldiers are laying down their lives while they're bitching about having to file papers.  The women in this film forget that they're serving in the military where people's lives are in danger - they're so caught up in their own little world.  Because they're caught up in this world, they fail to see the larger picture.

But, they're human.  In one way or another, we can relate to these characters, whether we'd care to admit it or not.  These characters could have been caricatures, but they aren't because Lavie makes them relatable.  These are just bored women at work.  Everyone can relate to wanting to play an addictive game like Minesweeper on a slow day at work.  Unfortunately, though, in these womens' workplace, people's lives are on the line.

Overall, this is an auspicious debut for Lavie.  It is a supremely entertaining, confident, occasionally demented, and very human film.  If this is how great the quality of Lavie's films will continue to be, I cannot wait to see what's next.


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