Writer-director Benjamin Bee — along with producer Maria Caruana Galizia and production company Candle & Bell — unfolds a touching and warmly funny fable about two estranged brothers from a traditional orthodox Jewish family forced to reunite when their father passes away.
Daniel is an observant Orthodox Jew who hasn’t seen his identical twin Mordechai in years. The two have very different lives, especially ever since the more free-spirited Mordechai left the fold due to his “life choices.”
But when their father dies and the family holds a funeral for him in the part of England where they live, Daniel must pick up Mordechai from the airport, forcing them into a reunion of sorts. But when another unexpected death happens in the family, it gives Daniel an unexpected way to reconcile with his unconventional brother.
This heartwarming, insightful dramedy captures the swirls and eddies of emotions that undergird familial dynamics. Even though Daniel has been apart from his family for years, the sharply observed dialogue and stately, elegant visual naturalism ably capture the long-simmering conflict between brothers, especially the way they banter and bicker with long-running familiarity.
Actor Dan Mersh plays both brothers, and he remarkably occupies two different roles with diametrically opposed sensibilities. He plays Mordechai with a laidback, easygoing openness, while Daniel is more highly strung and conscientious, clearly concerned with how he and his actions will be perceived. Yet the brothers themselves may not be so different as first portrayed.
The film begins to question whether the difference between the brothers is innate to their personalities, or the result of the family dynamic, which puts one brother in the box of duty and the other in a more rebellious role — roles that reveal themselves to be straitjackets that cost the brothers their full self-expression and connection.
In a narrative sleight-of-hand, the storytelling turns this central question on its head in a subtle way, with a misunderstanding that the living twin takes as an opportunity to make things right — and become the person that he has always wanted to be.
The twist in “Mordechai” is both subtle, funny and very telling, especially when it goes unnoticed by the family. Yet it’s not constructed for shock or surprise, but rather for the character’s emotional growth — and therefore feels more grounded, organic and ultimately moving in the end. Through it, Daniel finds freedom, opportunity and a chance to go after his own happiness, all while learning just how much his brother loved him after all those years apart.