I seem to be amassing a good number of black comedies this festival, though it’s safe to say that Asaph Polonsky’s One Week and a Day is a good deal more lighthearted than some of the things I’ve seen. The title refers to the period of sitting Shiva (the seven days of mourning following a death in the Jewish religion) and the day that the movie takes place during. Eyal Spivak (Shai Avivi) is the patriarch who has just completed Shiva over his young son, who passed after suffering from cancer. Eyal is not taking this particularly well and we first meet him hiding in a tree in an attempt to avoid his neighbours attempted delivery of a salad. His neighbours having been absent during his son’s illness and the entire period of Shiva. The salad doesn’t go down well - ‘I don’t eat cucumber’ mutters Eval, and sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
Polonsky’s film has a great deal of Curb Your Enthusiasm about it, though unfortunately I haven’t watched enough Israeli movies to attribute that solely to a shared Jewish sense of humour. Spivak is a brilliant creation, a kind of Larry David-lite individual who, though not quite as irascible as David, would certainly give him a run for his money. Internally feuding with his absent neighbours for the duration of his son’s illness, he finds a solace of sorts in their stoner, sushi delivery boy son Shmulik Zooler (Sharon Alexander). Deliberately avoiding visiting his son’s grave on the day after Shiva (ostensively to protect the house from burglars), Spivak instead heads to the hospice where his son spent his final days to search for the multicoloured blanket belonging to him. The patient he finds in his son’s old room bestows upon him the gift of a large bag of medicinal marijuana. On his way out, Spivak has a chance meeting with a little girl who knew his son and is now looking after her terminally ill mother.
From here on, Spivak is on a mission to put the drugs to good use and enlists Zooler to help him (having never rolled a joint before). If you’re familiar with Larry David, you can imagine how well this goes. Spivak and Zooler bond and whilst Spivak’s wife Vicky (Evgenia Dodina) initially bemoans his lack of maturity, it’s not long before the benefits of such behaviour are starting to be seen and she is sneaking off to the park for her own toke. Though the journey isn't long, there is a great deal of anguish and destruction along the way.
One Week and a Day is a wonderfully observed study of grief from the point of view of a buttoned-down father, desperately trying to get to grips with the death of a teenage child. Bittersweet in its outlook but with a superbly fatalistic sense of humour, Polonsky’s movie is genuinely touching and manages to squeeze in a good number of laughs along the way. The chemistry between Avivi’s Spivak and Alexander’s Zooler is authentic enough for us to believe in their developing relationship and the sense of grief and loss transcends any religious boundaries.