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Film / Fill the Void

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It's somewhat like Pride and Prejudice but recycled in an Hasidic community.

Fill the Void is a 2012 Israeli drama film written and directed by Rama Burshtein. It focuses on life among the Haredi Jewish community in Tel Aviv, Israel.

It's Purim in Tel Aviv and everyone in the Haredi community is celebrating. The Mendelmann family in particular is celebrating the eldest daughter, Eshter, at the last days of pregnancy and waiting for the child to come. But tragedy ensues as Esther faints in the bathroom leading to an hemorragy. Despite the rush at the hospital, Esther dies giving birth to Mordecai leaving her family devasted.

A new problem surfaces as the now-widowed Yochay, Esther's husband, is expected to remarry as soon as possible by the Hasidic community, in order to give his son a stable family. His parents have suggested to him a young widow who lives in Belgium and he's considering the match. Rivka Mendelmann, Esther's mother and Yochay mother-in-law, doesn't want her grandson to leave the country and comes up with an unexpected candidate: her youngest daughter Shira. In her opinion, this would solve any problems, as Yochai need a wife, Shira was already looking for a match, and little Mordecai will be raised by someone of the family.

The problem is that 18-years-old Shira is a generation younger than her brother-in-law and very unexperienced about love and marriage. Also, she was proposed by a boy of her age and she wants someone she can grow up with. But since her mother is so desperate to prevent Yochay and her grandson to leave the country she decides anyway to give her brother-in-law a chance.

This movie displays the following tropes:

  • Age-Gap Romance: Yochay is a widow around 30, while Shira is 18. Shira's mother thinks they'd made a great match, but everyone is rightly concerned with the age gap working against them.
  • Almost Kiss: Happens between Yochay and Shira, after the Rabbi has vetoed their engagement because realizes Shira is doing it to make her parents happy.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Yochay gets intoxicated at Purim (the only day Hasidic Jews are allowed to drink) and drunkenly declares his love to Esther. She is touched by it but teases him for being obviously tipsy.
  • Arranged Marriage: Most of the marriages are arranged by the family or the Rabbi, but at least both the party involved must give their consent.
  • Cool Old Lady: Aunt Hanna is quite a cool lady, being hadicapped but also reasonable and witty. She had the strenght to refuse to marry a man out of convenience (despite being crippled by missing arms and that was her last chance of marriage) because she found him unpleasant.
  • Death by Childbirth: Esther tragically dies giving birth to Mordecai, kicking the real plot with her husband considering moving abroad taking his son with him.
  • Empty Nest: The implied reason for Shira's father keeping to postpone her engagement, as he doesn't want the house to be empty. Especially after Esther dies.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: After being told by Yochay's mother that Yochay is considering moving to Belgium and remarry, Rivka Mendelmann is shown broodingly doing the dishes, thinking about the terrible news she's received. You can literally see the idea popping out when she stops to see Shira and Yochay happily playing with Mordecai.
  • Innocently Insensitive:
    • The first time Yochay proposes to Shira the first time, she casually tells him that he should propose to Freida, her spinster cousin. Everyone is embarassed by the incident and Yochay feels profoundly humiliated (and rejected);
    • Then again she says that Yochay is not interested in Freida right in her face, which leads poor Freida to storm out humiliated and giving her a quite deserved What the Hell, Hero?.
  • Maiden Aunt: Aunt Hanna never married, but she wears her hair covered as married women so men won't ask her unpleasant questions.
  • Marry for Love: After a Time Skip Shira does indeed marry Yochay, but after they've come to love each other for real.
  • No Antagonist: No real antagonists in this film. The characters do antagonize each other from time to time but their reasons are sympathetic. The real conflict is if Shira should follow her heart or dutifully obey her mother, with the choice entirely placed on her.
  • Old Maid: Cousin Freida, who hopes to marry Yochay herself since she's still unmarried. She ends up marrying Mr. Shtreicher, another widow himself.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Esther has to die of childbirth for the real plot to start.
  • Promotion to Parent: Shira has taken this role for Mordecai even before being proposed by Yochay. At the end she becomes a full Parental Substitute as his new stepmother.
  • Remarrying for Your Kids: The Hasidic community firmly believes in this. Yochay is expected to remarry as soon as possible to give his son a mother figure.
  • Running Gag:
    • Aaron Mendelmann being asked about his daughter's Shira engagement (with Pinchas Miller, not Yochay). Aaron always replies it's not really the moment;
    • Sadly for Freida, every time there's a marriage or an engagement she's condescendingly told "May you be the next (to marry)".
  • She's All Grown Up: The reason why despite being embarassed at the first suggestion, Yochay eventually warms up to the idea of marrying his late wife's younger sister: she's grown up to be an attractive and kind young woman, and a good Parental Substitute for his son.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat: Shira's mother wants her to marry Yochay, most of all because she doesn't want Yochay to marry a stranger that lives abroad. Aunt Hanna instead wants Freida to marry Yochay, because she's still unmarried and thinks Shira should marry someone of her age.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Shira was all too eager to marry Pinchas Miller, a boy who was suggested to her despite not really knowing him. When she has the chance of speaking with him she finds out he's a rather dull fellow and the match goes nowhere.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Yochay, who's tall, dark, handsome and with a dry sense of humour.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Shira has one during a wedding party with her former suitor Pinchas Miller, after his marriage offer has being withdrawn by his parents.