Glasgow Film Festival Review: ‘Foxtrot’

Foreign Language Academy Award contender ‘Foxtrot‘ is a three act drama surrounding the grief of Israeli architect Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) and his wife Daphna (Sarah Adler) after they are told that their son Yonathan (Yonathan Shiray) has died whilst serving as a soldier. The acting from the three leads here is strong. The initial grief from Ashkenazi and Adler demands the use of the whole bodies to speak – it quite literally makes them freeze, and grounds them.

The fact that Michael is an architect is immediately interesting. ‘Foxtrot’ seems to be about symmetry. The birds-eye view of each room in Michael’s apartment frames each character in relation to the room, and the world. The floor designs and shapes are mirrored patterns and this is meant to match the repetitive nature of Yonathan’s military work – the spotlights at his post are just as outlined.

The sound design is clinical. We can hear the amplified sound of doors and footsteps as we see these in close-up. The grieving process for Michael and Daphna is distilled and this is best realised in sound. The military officials who visit Michael initially order him to drink water once hourly and set an alarm to remind him on his mobile phone. The alarm tone is intrusive and stops a few scenes in their natural flow.

The script has a lyrical and almost poetic quality. The anecdotes that Yonathan relays to the rest of his unit are genuine and relate back to the discussion and the visuals of the other acts in the narrative. The dialogue invoking support between Michael, and Daphna, and some other family members, is believable in a heightened situation of grief.

The acts within the narrative relate to each other in a unique way. Multi-narrative films are few and far between. The film is clearly aimed at a global audience. It is an Israeli German Franco-Swiss co-production, with at least a third of the film set in an unknown location. It is not like ‘Chungking Express‘ where stories of a similar theme inhabit the same geographical location. ‘Foxtrot‘ is more exploring the relationships, denial, and loss in the context of war. The three chapters at first appear linear but somehow speak to each other in cycles.

There is an odd use of humour in the film. At one point when Yonathan is guarding the checkpoint, a camel walks past on the road. The dance itself is also very particular. If you have seen the trailer you will have already seen the foxtrot dance as another soldier flags this in conversation because their post is named foxtrot in the phonetic alphabet. There are very few problems with ‘Foxtrot‘, it is a striking piece of filmmaking from Samuel Maoz. I would say that the treatment of women is problematic at times, though this is usually in conversations about the past in the dialogue, referring to things like “poster pin-ups” of an adult nature. This is a relatively minor qualm though.

Zach Roddis | [rating=4]

Drama | Isreal, 2017 | 15 | Glasgow Film Festival | Curzon Artifical Eye | Dir.Samuel Maoz | Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Yonaton Shiray, Shira Haas