Reuniting the Rubins (2010)

Fitting into the rather unsaturated category of warring-Jewish-family-themed movies, director Yoav Factor ventures into uncharted and arguably risky waters for his feature debut. The result pays off, with a stellar British cast led primarily by Timothy Spall (The King’s Speech, 2011, the Harry Potter franchise) though it should really be seen as an ensemble piece: giving as it does an almost equal time to shine on screen to all members. Shot in a remarkable 5 weeks with many of the cast meeting for the first time on set, it’s difficult to see in its execution any of the problems Factor went through in order to get it to the screen – the director himself has admitted the process was unusual, in one instance only seeing a poignant location for the first time hours before shooting.

Spall is Lenny Rubin, father of a dysfunctional family with grown up children scattered across the globe – all doing very different things with their lives. Seemingly their only connection is their shared Jewish heritage which some have chosen to ignore, despite their ailing grandmother (played perfectly by the glamorous Honor Blackman, given chance to show off her oft-overlooked acting talents) being hell-bent on using it to once more get them reunited for the Jewish festival of Pesach, the last time she expects to see them all together given her age. We meet Lenny departing for the cruise of a lifetime, having learnt he is a widower of many years and is always trying to appease his mother. Shortly after boarding the liner, he is informed of his mother’s admission into hospital and he subsequently forgoes the trip before it even leaves port. After a chain of misunderstandings and further hospital trips, she informs him of her desire to see her warring family reunited for one last time in their childhood home which she has just cashed in her retirement fund to purchase. Charged with appealing to each of his children to get them to return home, Lenny must first locate them in order to convince them of its importance to their grandmother. His daughter is off saving the African people from exploitation, one son is the head of an ill-liked corporation in the middle of a huge business deal, another is now a Buddhist monk living a life of contemplation and the youngest is a Rabbi in the Holy Land. With such a diverse family intent on never seeing each other again it’s a tough ride for Lenny, but at all costs, he must do his utmost to do this one last wish for his ageing mother: even if it does mean losing his chance of reconnecting with the cruise.

A real family orientated film with the right mixture of humour and emotion, Factor delivers on his promise of a heartfelt story which he insists is only autobiographical in the sense of its Jewish characters. Timothy Spall embodies the role of Lenny as a man tired of his mother’s requests, resigned to the fact that reuniting his children is a lost cause. With turns by Rhona Mitra (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, 2009), James Callis (Battlestar Galactica) and Hugh O’Connor (to be seen in 2011′s Killing Bono) as 3 of the feuding siblings, the feeling of a family under true duress when in the same room is wonderfully conveyed. A simple movie with the simple mantra of appreciating those closest to us, Reuniting the Rubins could be the start of something wonderful for the home-grown film industry from a writer/director/producer not afraid to tell a story. Having hinted in the post-premiere Q&A that his next feature may be a psychological thriller, I look forward to seeing how the critics view this charmingly uplifting film.


Reuniting the Rubins (2010) frame

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