For his previous short films, director Asaph Polonsky has been nominated for a Student Academy Award and he has taken home trophies at AFI and Cannes amongst other prestigious festivals. His debut feature film, One Week and a Day, picks up the day after Shiva ends, the day mourners are expected to return to regular routine after losing a close relative, in this case, a couple’s 25-year- old son, Ronnie. For Vicky Spivak (Evgenia Dodina), this is an obligation. Whether or not she is ready to resume her life might not be relevant. For her husband Eyal (Shai Avivi), however, this is more of a guideline.
While Vicky is staving off a substitute teacher who has assumed her post, scrambling to make it to her dentist appointment, and even rescuing a few tiny kittens, Eyal is getting high off his dead son’s medical marijuana with his neighbor’s son, Zooler (Tomer Kapon). This serves to annoys Zooler’s father, with whom Eyal does not quite get along (Eyal goes so far as to hide in his own bushes to avoid any interaction with him.) (It did not work.). And the drug serves as a release, a distraction, an excuse to resume not resuming. Zooler, too, is able to distract Eyal (and Vicky, for that matter). He is always around the house and acts as somewhat of a second son, an opportunity to dwell on life before Ronnie’s death, upon which Eyal willingly capitalizes.
Polonsky even provides us a clear image of this reincarnation with Zooler asleep on one side of Ronnie’s bed and Vicky and Eyal holding each other on the other side, one of the few scenes in the film with visible emotional impact, given the content.
The decision to begin the film just after Shiva was, I’m sure, incredibly intentional on Polonsky’s part. The goal for the characters is to re-learn how to live with the new hole that exists. This overall message is perhaps most clear when Eyal and Zooler rush to reserve the burial plots next Ronnie and happen upon a funeral taking place at the cemetery. While the world might be hurtling towards imminent demise for one person, another might be getting dental x-rays, reserving burial plots, smoking pot.
Israeli comedian Avivi gives a shining, hilarious performance (despite not really smiling at all). Kapon serves his duty as the goofy, ridiculous stoner. And Dodina provides a stunning, heartbreaking portrait of a lost mother. The film allows laughter even as the parents face this terrible event. In fact, it demands it. Polonsky does not offer many details about Ronnie’s life, but I found this to be highly effective. Even more so, he is able to force focus on the living rather than the dead, because it is the former who must continue, who are given one week to mourn and a day to start moving forward.