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In his debut narrative feature, One Week and a Day, director Asaph Polonsky tackles grief, albeit unconventionally. In the opening scene, Eyal, in the midst of mourning his son, plays an incredibly competitive game of ping-pong. After he’s finished defeating his child opponent (yep, you read it correctly), he challenges other children to step up to the plate. Though it’s the last day of Shiva (the traditional week of mourning in Judaism), Eyal doesn’t seem too solemn. He hides from the “well-meaning” neighbors and ventures to his son’s hospice, finding a rather large stash of marijuana, that he later enjoys. On the other hand, his wife, Vicky, maintains a more mature demeanor, tending to the family affairs, in an attempt to lay their son to rest and continue her daily routine. Luckily, this tension unfolds into a beautiful complexity of humor, melancholy, and nostalgia.

Though our opening moments are during Shiva, the film doesn’t rest there. Instead, it focuses on the following day. Polonsky states, “I find the Shiva tradition to be an extremely helpful one, but it also comes to an end and that’s where I wanted to start the film – when reality kicks in.” In this representation of grief, reality is incredibly layered. Though sadness lingers, the film never gives into melodrama nor over sentimentality. In fact, it takes a more naturalistic approach, in which varying emotions are intertwined. As Vicky attempts to return to work and restore normality, Eyal seems to avoid it. Responsibility and avoidance fall under the same umbrella of coping.

The film’s naturalistic tone is emphasized by its cinematography. There’s a fluidity in its camera movements and even in its editing. We can easily begin in the grieving couple’s kitchen, then find ourselves in the living room, with new people entering the frame, bringing new comical scenarios. For instance, when Vicky stumbles upon Eyal smoking with the younger neighbor, Zooler (a childhood friend of their late son), the action begins in the kitchen, then fluidly moves to the backyard. There, the two men continue their smoking and shenanigans.

This fluidity gives the film a meandering tone, which is not, at all, to say that it is aimless. In fact, this tone echoes the grief that the characters experience; this sentiment of being lost. For Vicky, she tries to find herself through maintaining her routine, while Eyal tries to find himself by breaking away from it. Overall, One Week and a Day feels human, which is certainly a cinematic feat.

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