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Jellyfish: Synchronized swimming 

Israeli drama wades through the waters of life

The women of Jellyfish seem forever adrift at sea, and are sorely in need of a lifesaver. And yet what sounds like a fairly downbeat premise shows flashes of sprightly, magical realism in the film by Israeli author-turned-director Etgar Keret and his partner, Shira Geffen.

Winner of the 2007 Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Jellyfish often stays afloat on a visual charm that floods its aquatic metaphors. In the opening shot, we see Batya (a subtly expressive Sarah Adler) standing with her departing boyfriend in front of what looks like an aquarium's façade. But as he and his truck pull away, so does the background, revealing a Tel Aviv street scene. Reality bites, and much of Jellyfish is spent watching its women struggling to navigate life's choppier waters.

They might be disconnected from life to some degree, but they often find themselves connected to one another. Batya, the daughter of unfeeling parents, struggles in her job as a wedding-caterer waitress, and might have taken on more than she can handle when a lost little girl (Nikol Leidman) appears out of nowhere down at the beach.

At one of the weddings in which Batya works, we find newlywed Karen (Noa Knoller), whose broken ankle at the reception is the first of several disappointments she suffers as she struggles to appreciate her new husband, Michael (Gera Sandler). Forced to cancel their Caribbean honeymoon, they seek refuge at a beachside Israeli hotel, where Karen's constant complaining leaves Michael tempted by a mysterious older woman. Meanwhile, Filipino immigrant Joy (Ma-nenita De Latorre) looks for work assisting elderly women to help support her young son back home, but her clients either die on her or distrust her.

As tragic as life is, Keret and Geffen seek out the little grace notes that make it worth living, whether it's in the sky's blue hues, the touch of a lover's hand or maybe the promise of the ice-cream man. One of the characters suggests that we might be living our lives "eternally in disgrace," but the filmmakers suggest if we appreciate what's in front of us, we've still got a shot at staying above water.

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