Fresh from screenings at the London Film Festival and the recent UK Jewish Film Festival, Songs of Songs, a psychological drama, set among an Orthodox Jewish community in London, is now getting a limited cinema release.
Directed by newcomer Josh Appignanesi, Song of Songs stars up and coming British Jewish actress Nathalie Press as Ruth, a devoutly religious young woman who returns from studying in Israel to care for her dying mother. While she's home, she attempts a reconciliation with her brother David (Joel Chalfen) who is estranged from the family. This in turn sparks off a chain of unexpected events, while the uneasy relationship between David and Ruth takes on a much darker turn.
From an opening voiceover that takes its inspiration from the book of Ecclesiastes, through to its strange, inconclusive ending, Song Of Songs is far removed from the more light-hearted, mainstream Jewish-themed movies that have emerged from the UK recently. This is more thought-provoking stuff – although it's a hard film to watch, punctuated by sparse dialogue and long, ponderous silences – while it has a cold, detached feel that makes it hard to care for the characters or fully engage with the story.
What ultimately saves Song of Songs is some decent acting from the likes of Chalfen, and particularly Press, who's shaping up to be one of the best new British actresses around. Having made her mark in the 2004 drama My Summer Of Love, the 23-year-old from North London was also recently seen in the BBC's Bleak House. Here, she adds another impressive performance to her CV, and makes this otherwise pretentious film worth watching.
Song Of Songs (Cert 15) is showing at the ICA, London, From February 10.