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An Israeli dramedy mines the uneasy relationship between a father and son, rival Talmudic scholars

Eyes on the prize: Lior Ashkenazi and Shlomo Bar-Aba
Eyes on the prize: Lior Ashkenazi and Shlomo Bar-Aba

Joseph Cedar's dramedy Footnote depicts the strained relationship of a father and son living in Jerusalem, each a Talmudic scholar. The elder, Eliezer (Shlomo Bar-Aba), is a reclusive sort, embittered that the esoteric research he's spent decades on has gone unrecognized, while his son, Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi), garners accolade after accolade for his more approachable writings.

Cedar sketches each man's backstory through a series of comic snapshots, before tossing a metaphorical hand grenade into this unhappy family: Eliezer learns that he has won the prestigious Israel Prize, and soon after, Uriel discovers that there was an administrative error, and the prize was intended for him. It's a bit of a "Gift of the Magi" twist, since neither man can do the right or magnanimous thing without severely compromising his own principles and desires.

Up to a point, Footnote finds very fertile ground in presenting each man's struggle in pursuit of their respective Pyrrhic victories. The story grows a bit wobbly at the end, with some unresolved threads, and a final scene that may leave some dissatisfied. But exactly what actions occur once the camera stops rolling are less important than what has been revealed in this terrible pas de deux. In essence, no matter what happens, there is really only one outcome.

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