No matter the time or place, a young summer love is something we’ll all experience. That moment in life between childhood innocence and the pressures of becoming an adult is short, but filled with some of the most important lessons a person can learn. In The Matchmaker, writer and director Avi Nesher brings us the story of Arik Burstein (Tuval Shafir), a teenage boy living in Israel in 1968. After meeting Yankele Bride (Adir Miller), a local man who specializes in finding love for the most difficult cases, Arik goes to work for him. The various people that Arik meets teach him about life and love, lessons that come in handy when his friend’s cousin comes to visit for the summer and Arik finds himself falling in love for the first time.
While the bulk of the story is concerned with the life lessons that Arik learns, there is also a small portion that focuses on the people around him who are dealing with life after the holocaust. Arik has very little knowledge of the horror that so many people faced, and those who went through it are reluctant to speak of it, but it does affect the way in which they interact with others. This is most obvious in the work that Yankele does. He believes that everyone deserves love, and it seems that much of this comes from his experiences during the holocaust. Much of this is quite subtle, but it slowly seeps into Arik’s life and he begins to teach himself about what happened. This gives him a different perspective on certain people that he meets, and it is certainly a large part of the man he will soon become.
Don’t think that the film is heavy with drama though. There are certainly some very touching moments, but much of the film follows the charming exploits of Arik. His job for Yankele involves spying on candidates for his matchmaking business. There are times when Arik doesn’t exactly understand this, but a suitable match must be made through intense research. The reasons why Yankele chooses to match certain people together seem odd to Arik, and the idea that Yankele can successfully match people, but has no love of his own is a bit of a mystery. All of these secrets play an important role in the development of Arik, even if we don’t really see the outcome in the film. All the pieces show us the man that Arik will become, before he even realizes it’s happening.
Most of the humour of the film comes from Arik falling in love with his friends cousin, Tamara (Neta Porat). She’s come from America, where her pastimes included free love and bra burning, and her father feels she needs a reminder of where they come from. The interaction between the two characters is very funny and light, but it’s also the most important aspect of the film. Although the cultures are completely different, everything is exactly the same when it comes to young love.
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