Israeli Writer/director Savi Gavison has a unique concept about the discoveries and joys and travails of coming of age and he makes this tender little story come to life with simplicity and honesty and a large dose of human kindness. The multiple awards this movie garnered are very well deserved: perhaps now that it is readily available on DVD will hopefully bring it to the attention of a larger audience.
HA-ASONOT SHEL NINA (NINA'S TRAGEDIES) takes us on a journey with teenager Nadav (a quietly superb Aviv Elkabeth) whose home life is stressful: his mother Alona (Anat Waxman) has thrown out her husband and takes on lovers like flies to flypaper. Alona's sister Nina (the luminously beautiful Ayelet Zurer) - Nadav's aunt - has relationship troubles with her intended husband Haimon (Yoram Hattab) yet finally marries him, much to the dissatisfaction of Nadav who is privately in love with Nina (his first sensation of attraction and lust). Nadav has a friend Menahem (Dov Navon) with whom he spends his time as a peeping tom, watching the vagaries of his mother and Nina. After Nina's marriage, Haimon is killed in the ongoing violence in Tel Aviv and Nina is destroyed emotionally: Alona sends the more than willing Nadav to live with his aunt, an act that only enforces his passion for Nina. But soon Nina begins to see visions of Haimon running naked in the streets (!) and is befriended by a handsome Avinoam (Alon Abutbul) whose girlfriend Lihi (Osnat Fishman) is a successful artist. Nina and Avinoam have a passionate but brief affair (causing deep bitterness in the jealous Nadav), but the affair is ended when Nina 'sees' the face/ghost of Haimon at her window and Nina longs for the return of Haimon, knowing now that she is pregnant with his child. Navad engages Menahem to help him resolve Nina's new tragedy, but Menahem has found a girlfriend Galina (Jenya Dodina) and has his own 'tragedy' when Galina returns to her ex-lover Alex (Yoram Hattab again!), and it is Menahem's tragedy that leads Navad to the discovery that the very strange Alex is the 'ghost' of Haimon that Nina has been seeing. The story becomes more complex as Nina delivers her baby, Navad's father is taken back by his mother when his diagnosis of cancer is made known, and the mixed set of tragedies intertwine for an ending that surprises everyone.
If the plot sounds convoluted, it is! But the fact that the story is from the obsessively maintained diary of Nadav makes it all connect in the loveliest of ways. The cast is outstanding and the tenor of the times in Tel Aviv is accurately and realistically portrayed and for once allows the constant conflict to be simply background for a story that deals with equally traumatic personal issues - at least in the eyes of an impressionable young teenager. There is much wisdom here, but there is also considerable fine entertainment in a film that sees human foibles as comic as they are tragic. Watching NINA'S TRAGEDIES is a complete pleasure. In Hebrew with English subtitles. Grady Harp, November 07