In THE KIND WORDS, Dorona (Rotem Zisman -Cohen) has given up trying to become a mother after a series of miscarriages. Fertility mocks her at every turn. Her brother Natanel (Roy Assaf) has triplets, and their little brother, Shai (Assaf Ben-Shimon), has a child with a woman in Hungary, although these days he dates men. Even their mother (Levana Finkelstein) looks pregnant, with a huge tumor she manages to deny. The way she dances around her Jerusalem apartment, singing along to a scratchy old LP, you would never know that a delicate surgery lies ahead, or that her husband has dumped her for a young, pouty-lipped singer.
The Israeli director Shemi Zarhin, who also wrote the screenplay, shuffles these modern problems into an enjoyably human mystery. The story takes flight when Dorona is summoned by her father, who makes a surprising pronouncement, and their mother, who holds the answers, has been stricken with a fatal blood clot. Mourning, yet angry and confused, Dorona and her brothers skitter off like Jerusalem’s sophisticated answer to the Scooby-Doo crew, seeking the answers that their mother took to her grave. They travel to Paris for some family history from Aunt Rosa, then to a faded film star who treats them to a tale of desperate love. Next, it’s on to Marseille in search of a restaurant called Beirut.
A harmonious ensemble of motion and proportion, the siblings achieve a tender balance as their definitions of family, identity and ethnicity are tested. Dorona’s husband, tagging along, seems superfluous. Humor creeps in from strange sources, including a seller of funeral packages and a march through a Paris graveyard, and while not every motivation is clear, subtext isn’t everything in a movie as complex and satisfying as this one.