Stories involving road trips undertaken by mismatched partners are a familiar cinematic staple, and Dani Menkin’s (39 Pounds of Love) dramedy adds little to the genre. A winner of the Israeli Academy Award for Best Independent Film, Is That You? is a predictable, whimsical exercise that only occasionally produces the sort of bittersweet emotion it seeks to elicit. If you find the idea of a cop bursting into an opera aria during a traffic stop irresistibly funny, then this is the movie for you.
The central character is Ronnie (Alon Aboutboul, London Has Fallen), a 60-year-old film projectionist who after losing his job decides to travel to America and visit his brother (Rani Bleier). Besides reconnecting with family, he has another goal in mind: to track down Rachel (Suzanne Sadler), his long-lost love.
Forced quirkiness abounds in this Israeli/American dramedy.
Not long into his quest, he meets Myla (Naruna Kaplan de Macedo), a 20-year-old film student working on a project in which she interviews random strangers about their deepest regrets. She offers to tag along, hoping to make Ronnie the central figure in her film. The two wind up bouncing around upstate New York and Canada, with the people they meet along the way providing more fodder for Myla’s documentary.
Despite its brief running time, the film feels like a very long road trip indeed, with director/co-writer Menkin failing to infuse the proceedings with sufficient narrative momentum. The storyline lurches from one uninvolving episode to another, and although Aboutboul manages to make the beleaguered Ronnie’s deadpan reactions mildly amusing, Kaplan de Macedo is unable to overcome her character’s forced, irritating quirkiness. The frequently seen grainy excerpts from the work-in-progress documentary, which all too obviously mirror Ronnie’s existential angst, provide little diversion.
Production: Hey Jude Productions
Cast: Alon Aboutboul, Naruna Kaplan de Macedo, Rani Bleir, Suzanne Sadler, Patrick Michael Kelly
Director-producer: Dani Menkin
Screenwriters: Dani Menkin, Eshkol Nevo
Executive producer: Bruno Landsberg
Director of photography: Bruce Francis Cole
Editor: Dana Yardeni
Not rated, 83 minutes