Palestinian and Israeli, switched at birth

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Entertainment,Movies,Kelly Jane Torrance

It's a concept that seems so pregnant with possibility that it's a wonder "The Other Son" was only made now. Two babies, a Palestinian and an Israeli, were mistakenly switched at birth. Each was raised by the family of the other until adulthood, when the truth finally comes out. How will the pair -- and their families -- react when they learn they've been raised by, or have raised, the enemy, so to speak?

Joseph (Jules Sitruk) and Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi) are 18 when they learn the truth about themselves. Joseph, who's been raised in a Tel Aviv, Israel, suburb by his French mother (Emmanuelle Devos) and Israeli father (Pascal Elbe), makes the discovery when a blood test he's taken for his obligatory military service shows he's not the natural son of his parents. They immediately search out a doctor, who realizes what must have happened. The hospital at which they were born was evacuated during a missile attack, and the babies were later handed over to the wrong parents.

The Jewish boy has been raised as a Muslim, and vice versa. Yacine was raised on the West Bank but educated in Paris. (The French connections of both families are a slightly weak attempt to explain why so many characters speak French -- director Lorraine Levy is French.) He hopes to become a doctor, while Joseph, who gets into the air force thanks to his father's pull as an army commander, is a dreamer aspiring to become a folk singer.

On screen
'The Other Son'
2 out of 4 stars
Stars: Jules Sitruk, Mehdi Dehbi, Emmanuelle Devos, Pascal Elbe
Director: Lorraine Levy
Rated: PG-13 for a scene of violence, brief language and drug use
Running time: 105 minutes

The boys themselves take the news rather well. It's their families whose foundations immediately crumble. They're conflicted, of course, between the urge to reclaim their flesh and blood and the confusion that their "real" sons have been raised in very different belief systems.

This has all the makings of a great drama. But here, it seems more often a melodrama. Levy has some trouble balancing the personal and the political -- and the fact that they're sometimes impossible to separate. The movie does best when its big story is kept to a small scale. The broken intimacy of each family is the most compelling thing about the movie -- not the wider implications the filmmaker would like to take from them.

"The Other Son" seems tailor-made to make a point. And that wishful thinking takes the power away from what might have been a subtle, but more effective, film.

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