AKA: Shliḥuto shel Ha’Memuneh al Mash’abey Enosh
Year Released: 2010
Distributor: Film Movement
Running Time: 103 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG-13
Related Films/Movies: N/A
For Fans Of: Death At A Funeral, Up in the Air
-The scenes involving Eastern Europe were filmed in Romania despite that country not being mentioned. There were some giveaways like the police cars having that flag on it and The Boy getting a Bucharest soccer scarf in the ending.
-Mark Ivanir, who played the title character has been in several movies and TV shows. Some of which include Royal Pains, Homeland, The Terminal, and even Schindler’s List.
-The Human Resources Manager won five Ophir Awards AKA the Israeli Oscars.
-The Human Resources Manager is based on a book called A Woman in Jerusalem by A. B. Yehoshua.
-Romanian actress Irina Petrescu’s last living role was playing The Grandmother in this film.
Middle Eastern cinema has been on my radar coincidentally enough, but I never saw too many films from Israel. The only other film I could think of that was produced in that nation was another Film Movement distributed piece called Campfire years ago. Now, I happened to catch Eran Riklis’s award-winning film The Human Resources Manager.
This film starts out in Jerusalem in the year 2002. It deals with the title character (most of the characters don’t have names) finding out that one employee at the bakery he works for has been missing for over a month and no one told him. He finds out that this was an immigrant worker by the name of Yulia Petracke who died in a suicide bombing attack in the city. The bakery and him get tons of heat for this gross negligence by the local news media. The only option is for The Human Resources Manager to be flown out to Yulia’s homeland back in Eastern Europe to bury her there while dealing with other characters along the way.
The Human Resources Manager is a complex character even though some aspects of him are cliched. He gets rightfully angry for not knowing about Yulia’s death until a month after the fact which gives him a level of sympathy despite his rough demeanor. He even gives the reporter AKA The Weasel hell for smearing him for this unfortunate event. It’s all well and good since anyone in that position has a right to be furious, but once I saw him promise his daughter to go on her field trip and not being able to because of the assignment to transfer Yulia’s coffin to Europe, I had to facepalm. This is just another example of the “overworked business dad” trope. He’s so into his job that he doesn’t have time to spend with his wife and daughter. Yawn. I’ve seen this before in several shows and movies such as Hook and Jingle All The Way. Sure, I liked the irony of him drinking from a mug that says “Super Dad” on it as his wife tells him that he’s absent even when he’s at home, but this trope is so played out. Of course, he gets guilt tripped into trying to return back to Jerusalem in time for this field trip. Who didn’t see that one coming?
You! Put that hand down this instant!
The other characters feel like archetypes even though some get character development. We have The Weasel who’s a pesky reporter and hardcore shutterbug. He coaxes into going along on this business trip and just can’t shut up about things (the bunker scene is an egregious example of this). There’s the consul who’s this snooty rich woman who talks almost as much as The Weasel. She stops showing up later on that goodness. The Consul constantly brags about her position in life, harasses the cops to get what she wants, and she even casually calls the Europeans they’re going to see Anti-Semites despite none of the characters exhibiting such attitudes. I just shook my head there. The Boy is the son of Yulia who starts out as a foul-mouthed antisocial teenager who gets into fights, but you know he’s going to soften up later on. He does have some good scenes in the second half of the movie, but I found that character to be cliched.
The filming style is gritty, but nothing offensive. The camera work is a bit on the grainy side. I’m not sure if it was for aesthetics or out of necessity. I wasn’t too plussed with it even though the visuals made the movie look older than what it actually was. The scenery in both Israel and Romania were stunning especially the winter landscapes. I felt cold watching those parts of the movie despite the warm weather outside at the time I viewed The Human Resources Manager. It did have that Neo-realistic charm like Before Your Eyes or Offside which I do appreciate. There was a lot of effort done despite the atypical camera visuals.
One interesting aspect in this movie is the usage of three different languages. The languages spoken are Hebrew, Romanian, and English. It’s mostly in Hebrew since most of the main characters are Israeli, but several characters also spoke English. The English dialog is fine, but some of the characters spoke it better than others. I found some grammatical errors and some thick accents which did make it tough to understand at times. There was one funny scene where The Boy is dancing on top of a replacement vehicle (spoilers avoided) with his Walkman playing full blast. He gets chided when he’s told “Michael Jackson, get in here before you freeze your ass!” in perfect English. That was one of the funniest elements of that scene.
Speaking of comedy, I thought sometimes it was hit or miss. Personally, I wasn’t sure if they were going for a more deadpan approach with these characters during the lighter moments or if it really was that serious. I can handle some deadpan humor and some of my own jokes can come across as such, but there was a disconnect with me. Not to mention that the situation in this film is tough to have some good comedy when a major plot point revolves around the death of an immigrant worker and people trying to bring the body back to her home country. There should have been some dark satire about worker’s rights or immigration which they kind of touch on, but never go all the way in this film. I’m not saying The Human Resources Manager should be this morbidly depressing movie, but I wish there was a better balance in the funny and serious moments.
The plotting is competent though. I never thought that the movie rushed itself or overstayed it’s welcome which is good. There is some good character development with The Human Resources Manager becoming less cold of a person, The Weasel becoming less annoying, and The Boy actually getting over his teenage angst despite him having some reasonable reasons to be upset given his dead mother. Although one aspect of the story involving The HR Manager’s subplot with his family had a MAJOR cop-out near the end of the movie that ruins his story arc. It gets handwaved which I won’t explain how or why it happens, but I guarantee you that it will frustrate you once it happens.
The Human Resources Manager is a decent movie with some feel-good elements despite the situation the characters have to go through. There are some funny moments that work even though the film is a bit unsure about some of the comedic elements. It’s well shot with it’s slightly grainy footage to add a realistic edge to this film. I do wish they could flesh out some of the characters and add more original elements though. Despite some of the cliches and stereotypes used, it’s not that bad of a movie.
Adjustable Rating System:
Add 1 point if you like family dramas
Add 1 point if you’re a Mark Ivanir fan
Subtract 2 points if you like more well-developed characters
-Neo-realistic atmosphere and scenery
-The replacement vehicle scene is a crowning moment of funny
-It has legitimate feel-good moments without being too superficial
-Awkward usage of humor despite the setting
-Writing cop-outs in the plot
-Some characters feel like stereotypes
Final Score: 6/10 Points
Content Warning: I’d say teens and up would be a fine age group. There is a bloodstained paycheck that’s used as evidence in Yulia’s death which is a major prop in some elements of the film. The biggest content advisory would be the language. This would get a PG had it not have had so many instances of strong profanity from The Boy who delivers most of the swearing especially in his earlier appearances.
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