Rama Burshteim’s debut feature, Fill the Void, opens the door to a community and lifestyle that, I would argue, has never been so delicately and responsibly explored on screen. Being orthodox herself, you could not ask for a more apt writer/director to take on the challenge.
The youngest daughter of a devoutly religious family, Shira (Hadas Yaron), is at the age where her family is thinking about arranging a marriage for her. However, everything gets put on hold when a tragedy hits the family and they deal with their grief and loss. So when a strange situation seems to unfold that will keep a family member from moving away, Shira has to battle the responsibility of her family duty, as well as her personal feelings turning the film into a roller coaster of ethical choices that will shape her life forever.
When I mentioned before that I believe Burshteim was the perfect filmmaker for this subject I meant it, there are so many films set in these very restrictive societies coming out each year that only have the prerogative to expose and ridicule. Showing us the horrible environment they create. This however shows an understanding and doesn’t judge it characters, they are religious because they want to be, with the film acting like nothing more than a window into a different way of living and the complex/peculiar relationships that might come as being part of that community. Rather shocking in its honesty and authenticity it’s fair to say that it’s a brave achievement from the filmmaker.
The claustrophobic nature of the film transports you there, with the family, in their cramped apartment, feeling every iota of the turmoil Shira faces, dealing with the weight of juggling her decisions. It’s respectfully done though, never taking the easy road, knowing the fragility of the subject and with soft hands, guiding us through its crushing dilemma. And it’s not like there’s opposing forces trying to persuade here either way, there isn’t an antagonist to speak of, the family only cares for her wellbeing. It’s simply exploring, in depth, the crazy situation Shira finds herself in.
So personal in its approach and assured with its execution, this intelligent and touching film displays a truly unique voice with Burshteim at the helm. Eloquent and embracing but always truthful, Fill the Void moves you, never allowing you a second to breathe leading to quite the cinematic experience.