By William Wolf

WORKING WOMAN  Send This Review to a Friend

An engrossing film from Israel powerfully nails the problem of sexual harassment at the office. The film doesn’t shout its theme, but achieves enlightenment via the experience of one woman, Orna, played with great intelligence and overall appeal by Liron Ben Shlush. Step by step, the film, directed convincingly by Michal Aviad, who co-wrote the screenplay with Sharon Azulay Eyal and Michal Vinik, follows Orna’s humiliating experience and the need for her to move forward from it.

Orna is the wife of Ofer (Oshri Cohen), a chef struggling to run his own restaurant. She is the mother of three young children and wants to get a job to help Ofer and the family finances. She is attractive, very smart and learns quickly, so although she has no real estate experience, she is hired by an ambitious real estate developer, Benny (Menashe Noy). Recognizing her ability, he gives her a key opportunity, of which she speedily proves worthy by her talent and makes progress for Benny’s company.

It soon becomes clear that Benny is attracted to her and sure enough, he makes an advance by trying to kiss her. Orna, in this uncomfortable situation rejects him, but the battle ground is set, and Benny doesn’t give up. The cruncher comes when he asks her to join him in Paris to lure French buyers into an Israeli apartment construction in Israel. Orna must accept as part of her job.

When he pushes his way into Orna’s hotel room, Benny, acting like a pig, assaults her. The way in which the scene is depicted gets to the heart of a basic conflict in which women can find themselves. Orna resists, but pinned against a wall, physically overpowered and not knowing how to escape, she allows him to relieve himself rubbing against her.

Orna feels terrible about having permitted that to happen and the question is what and whether to tell her husband about her employee experience with Benny, and the film also explores that avenue.

Orna, although needing the money, decides she must leave, which angers Benny, who refuses to sign a letter of recommendation she needs for a new job. Orna’s courage in going to his home, where his wife is present, to seek his signature is an important step in recovering her self-esteem. I left the picture with a memory of the perfectly filmed, suspicious, knowing look on the face of Benny’s wife (Dorit Lev-Ari). A savvy touch.

“Working Woman” is not only a particularly fine film from Israel, but the drama it entails so efficiently speaks to women everywhere, and also to men who are in a position like that of Benny and need to know the pain they can inflict on a woman if they pursue temptation and become guilty of assault. Congratulations to those bringing this film to our country. A Zeitgeist Films release in association with Kino Lorber. Reviewed March 27, 2019.


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