Comes across less as a film and more like the Season Two finale of a basic cable teen melodrama.
In terms of narrative scope, production values and dialogue construction, The Other Story comes across less as a film and more like the Season Two finale of a basic cable teen melodrama, something like “Switched at Birth.” Even at its supposedly most dramatic moments—and it features a bingo card’s-worth of 21st-century anxiety-inducers including ambulance rides, hysterical women, handguns, drugs of addiction and more—the film drums up very little tension or excitement. Much of the film would simply make more sense if it were the 25th episode of a TV show: viewers would know the characters, the strangely wavering tone would feel familiar, the cringy dialogue would be acceptable and the low production values would be appropriate to the context.
The first major structural flaw with The Other Story is the size of the cast. There are far too many characters and all of them have told-not-shown deep backstories that the film does not explore, both for lack of time and because those character backstories are just stock schlock. It would be feasible to have a film with close to a dozen characters if the filmmakers had not felt the need to give each one of them their own plotline; the ending has the same whiplash-inducing is-this-the-actual-ending effect of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but without nine hours of screen time and thousands of pages of lore to justify it.
All of the characters and their apparent need for their own individual stories would be easier to sit through if the dialogue were not so banal that it could have been generated by an AI that had watched every episode of every Shonda Rhimes show. Perhaps some of the verve is being lost in the translation from spoken Hebrew to English subtitles, but that seems unlikely given all of the other issues with The Other Story. Much of the trite dialogue has to do with the overwrought plotting. So much has to get accomplished with so little runtime that inevitably most of the characters spend the majority of their time explaining the narrative to each other or making statements obviously intended to set up future scenes. None of the characters has the time to be a person speaking like a person normally does, because they have a story to tell. And even when the film does slow down and let the characters breathe, those characters invariably use that space to offer up some quirky pop-philosophy one-liner that sounds like it came from “The Andy Griffith Show.”
One of the most startling reasons that the film feels more like a TV show is the lack of visual style. Many cinephiles can tolerate a muddled, too-ambitious story and stilted dialogue if the film at least manages some cinematographic dynamism. But that does not happen in The Other Story. Most of the scenes are shot in a few interiors, with camera work more in line with a multi-cam sitcom than anything else on our screens these days. Even exterior scenes are plain and anonymous; for instance, the film’s first and last scenes are both at the Tel Aviv airport, but the actual setting is the top floor of a parking garage that might very well be at the airport, but for viewers it is a Cialis commercial’s version of an airport. Overall, the few exteriors in the film look like a Marvel film minus the CGI and it is truly disheartening that Israel can so closely resemble the innate this-place-is-so-generic-it-looks-like-it-could-be-anyplace that Atlanta has managed for cinema over the past few decades.
There is a definite market for loud, obvious, faux-profound social melodramas in the United States. Hell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri even won two Oscars! But it seems unlikely that the audience who seeks out such woke-three-decades-too-late cinema would overlap much with the sort of U.S. film audience who would willingly watch an Israeli film with English subtitles. However small that tiny overlap between those audiences is, that represents the ideal viewers for The Other Story.