Smacks


I see Jellyfish (Meduzot, 2007) as three short stories bound together by a single thread. There's the story of Michael and Keren, a newly-wed couple who had to ditch their Caribbean honeymoon due to Keren's knee injury after an incident in their reception; then there's Joy, an OFW who braved her way to Israel to find work and eventually send her son a gift for his sixth birthday; and then there's Batya, a twenty-something waitress who developed a sisterly relationship with this little girl she found at the beach, lost with a life raft on her waist.

These three main threads branch out to smaller narratives: Joy searches for a job as a caretaker and developed a peculiar friendship with her boss, an old, conservative Jewish woman; the alluring writer in the suite above Michael and Keren's unit in the hotel they're staying in--thanks to sewage smells and the cacophony of traffic jams in their unit; the photographer Batya met as the unresolved conflict with her parents resurface at the beach.


The single thread that binds them is their desire for the sea. This means much for each character. In Batya's case, an accident gave her a head concussion which helped find the source of an unresolved conflict, a memory from childhood. It feels weak that the very trigger which thrown her life into a mess--into an apartment without proper plumbing, living a life as a waitress for a wedding caterer, breaking up with her boyfriend at the start of the film--all this would resurface because of a head concussion. It resurfaced in the way life rafts spring back to the saltwater surface: a flashback to an afternoon at the beach (the same beach where she found the little girl) and the tension between her parents, bickering but "not in front of the kid", the memory streaming in Super 8 clarity.

The girl she found lost at the beach, the one with nothing but a life raft at her waist, must have been that very memory, personified. It was stubborn enough to retain the life raft.


Meanwhile, Keren wanted a view of the sea that their hotel unit couldn't afford. When the elevators were under construction, Michael used the stairway and met the writer from upstairs. There he found out that the writer was living in the very suite they've wanted, and out of sheer desperation he let slip his desire to get her suite. Keren's insecurity grew when her husband relayed this information, mostly due to his excitement in relaying it, as if he finds the writer (he even thought she was a poet) interesting. She asked questions: Is she pretty? She's not married? You think Dostoevsky rented a suite to write?


"If you have something to write, you can do it anywhere," Keren said, and in this line she was convinced it was preposterous for the woman living upstairs to rent a suite for writing alone.
"How do you know? Did you ever write anything?"
Keren knew her husband really is interested with the woman.
Looking hurt, she managed to say: "At least I don't make spelling mistakes."

It ended glumly, with a retort from Michael: "In Russian, I have no spelling mistakes."


Joy talks to her son back in the Philippines in kiosks. Her son is about to celebrate his birthday soon, and she's been eyeing at this toy, a pirate ship displayed on a shop sitting right next to her second caretaking stint with an old Jewish woman, Galia. So far her adventures in Israel was taxing at first: when she first met Galia at the hospital, the old woman clearly didn't like her, partly because she doesn't speak much of Hebrew: "Great, she [her daughter] can't even find a decent caregiver," Galia said. There was miscommunication between the two, but they eventually developed a friendship, one that both of them hadn't expected to bloom from the job.

Throughout the film the characters intersect each other's lives, cementing and compacting the plot. It didn't bore me at all, and it wasn't a stretch to watch. There are brilliant enjambments in the film, transitions that I find refreshing. I think these enjambments are also brought about by the film's structure: since there are three major plots, it has to be woven seamlessly.

Other than that, I wanted to watch the film to treat it as a companion to Etgar Keret (as I've been reading his collection, The Nimrod Flipout, ever since I started working in Makati.