No matter who we are or where we’re from, most of us strive to live righteously, to conduct ourselves according to a moral code that defines our relations with those around us and the way we approach each day.
Definitions of such a life vary, of course, and the new movie “Menashe” is about a man on a quest to fulfill that ideal as a proud member of a community that has a very different conception of what it means.
It’s a scripted drama set in Hasidic Borough Park about Menashe (Menashe Lustig), a widower who works in a grocery store and has been forbidden by a rabbi from living with his adolescent son until he remarries.
The movie, made by Joshua Z. Weinstein in the classic neorealist tradition, depicts Menashe’s quest to fight that edict by proving himself worthy despite his having the appearance of a schlemiel (the Yiddish concept of a clumsy person) and certainly not appearing to exemplify the ultra-Orthodox ideal of a capable father.
Small, naturalistic moments like a scene of father and son scrambling to quickly eat breakfast and leave the apartment collectively give the Yiddish-language movie its quiet but unmistakable power, in its story of a man trying with all his might to be the best person he can be.