After a four-year stint in television, French writer/director Lorraine Levy returns to the silver screen with The Other Son, a West Bank story of mistaken identity and clashing cultures that, unfortunately, fails to hit as hard as it could. We open with Joseph Silberg (Jules Sitruk), an Israeli student whose rock-star aspirations are put on hold when he discovers he was switched at birth with Palestinian Yacine Al Bezaaz (Mehdi Dehbi). The truth surfaces, poignantly enough, through a blood test in anticipation of Joseph’s mandated military service. Suddenly, the teens are forced to come to terms with the heritage to which they feel they truly belong.
The film’s elegant cinematography and earnest performances can’t quite make up for a script that offers little more than a provocative “what if” scenario. For a subject matter infused with such inherently divisive themes, Levy’s story feels strangely light on conflict. Families speak of violence only in terms of national history or distant memory. These are not ongoing struggles but deep-running, almost outdated wounds. Perhaps this was Levy’s intention — diluting, even trivializing, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to emphasize the needless trials placed on intercultural relations. Unfortunately, few trials actually materialize in the story, and even the film’s climax dissolves without much consequence. The narrative meanders between coming-of-age family drama and socio-political commentary, letting the entire movie go by before it commits to either. Maybe that’s the real identity crisis here.