Fixated on romantic fantasies, a kindly and strong-willed young woman with a mild mental disability embarks on a relationship — much to the concern of her protective mother — in this assured first feature from director Nitzan Gilady.
Hagit (Moran Rosenblatt) is in love with love. Living with her mother, Sarah (Asi Levi), in a town in southern Israel's Negev desert, the young woman spends her evenings painstakingly making bridal gowns out of leftover materials from the toilet paper factory where she works. Sarah worries about her daughter: while possessed of remarkable warmth and a great strength of character, Hagit is mildly mentally disabled and doesn't know how to separate her romantic fantasies from her real life.
When Hagit develops a relationship with the factory owner's son, Omri (Roy Assaf, also appearing at the Festival in The Kind Words), she begins sneaking out of the house and away from her mother's protective gaze. When news comes that the factory is to be shut down, Hagit, Sarah, and Omri all have very different ideas about the next steps to be taken in their lives.
Renowned Israeli actress Levi (who won the Best Actress prize at the 2015 Jerusalem Film Festival for this role) imbues Sarah with such an inner spark and appetite for life — albeit obscured by a mantle of maternal worry — that it is easy to see the source of Hagit's ferocious hunger for a life of her own. And Hagit, as portrayed by Rosenblatt, is an unforgettable presence on screen. Loving, funny, and proud, she's a beautiful woman who wants an independent life, including the pain that might bring. When director Nitzan Gilady frames her against the stark amber-coloured desert, it is impossible not to feel her formidable will.
Indeed, in Gilady's hands, almost everything about the town's environment — the gentle golden light, the strong winds, and the expansive but lonely horizon — is expressive of Hagit's inner experience. Wedding Doll is an assured cinematic work about an unforgettable character.