Achoti HaYafah translates to My Lovely Sister, but it may as well translate to “My Really Dysfunctional Family.”
But it’s beautiful dysfunction, and the film is a rare specimen of Israel’s finer productions. Following tropes of Moroccan Jewish folklore, it’s an interwoven tale of familial love, romantic love, betrayal and reunion.
Superstitious, spiteful Rahma banishes her sister Marie for marrying an Arab Israeli fisherman, and for the suspicion that Robert, her own libidinous husband, has had an affair with her. From the beginning, Rahma, who hears her dead mother’s voice through the living room wall and offers her cakes for appeasement, has already driven away her husband, her daughter, and her porn-obsessed son with a caseload of psychotic behaviors.
Rahma’s anger toward Marie does not diminish — even as Marie dies — and that’s when her life really begins to un ravel. The rest of the story weaves through tightly wound dichotomies of fidelity and sexuality, rejection and acceptance, and ultimately life and death. Note the references to fish: Though practically unnoticeable, this Jewish symbol of fertility and sexuality is at the heart of the story.
My Lovely Sister captures the best of the Israeli film genre: The authenticity of a lonely, sandy experience and its ultimate redemption through love, pieced together only after everything has been broken.