It tells the story of Ronit (Rachael Weisz), who returns to London for her father's funeral. She has not been back to the community after being shunned many years before. She has made a successful life for herself in New York and her presence at her Rabbi father's funeral is not wanted.
She lands at her childhood friend, Dovid's (Alessandro Nivola) place. Dovid, a rabbi in training welcomes the grieving Ronit into his house. His wife, Esti (Rachael McAdams), Ronit and Dovid were inseparable as teenagers and their bond is strong, however her years of absence mean that Ronit is at odds with the community. Shunned for her actions as a teenager, Ronit has to find a way back into the community to mourn her father. Her actions from years ago have put her up there with Lord Voldemort in the popularity stakes. As she rekindles her relationship with Esti, there are consequences for all involved. At one stage in the film, Esti comments, "It's easy to go." Ronit counters, "No, it's easy to stay."
What ensues is a study of faith, friendship and sexuality. Disobedience provides a look into the world of Orthodox Judaism in North London (having many Jewish friends, the representation appears very true to life). The small details also make this film, right down to the mezuzahs, yarmulkes and seders. In some ways, it shows a foreign world on the doorstep.
This is a quiet film. The Director, Sebastian Lelio, in his first English language film, pitches the silences against the grey of the North London skyline. As the film progresses, Esti's apparent unhappiness mirrors the bleak London visage.
Rachael Weisz and Rachael McAdams are excellent in this, some of their best performances of their careers. Alessandro Nivolo is a also great as Dovid - a man entrenched within a community who battles with his wife's desires and choices.
I admit, having had some exposure to the Jewish community made this film very accessible, unlike for the people behind me, where one member of the party was explaining some of the finer points of Jewish life to his companion (grrrr). Regardless, it truly a wonderful film. Disobedience won't be everybody's kettle of worms, a Jewish, lesbian, independent drama never will be, but it is a beautiful study in humanity. Well worth the price of the ticket.