Holy Lands: Family drama falls quite short

Harry Rosenmerck (James Caan) and Rabbi Moshe Cattan (Tom Hollander) in Holy Lands. © Samantha Hellmann

Holy Lands seeks to explore the dysfunction within one family but this story ultimately falls short in being a compelling film.

When Jewish-American cardiologist Harry Rosenmerck (James Caan) sets off to become a pig farmer, the very move shakes up his entire family.  It’s not a shock to say that this move is very upsetting for his family.  His neighbor, Rabbi Moshe Cattan (Tom Hollander), is equally unhappy with the move to Nazareth, Israel.  Harry is estranged from his gay playwright son David (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).  Daughter Annabelle (Efrat Dor) had been living it up in Europe off of Harry’s money until the funds dry up.  Naturally, she’s forced back to live in New York with mother Monica (Rosanna Arquette).  The news eventually comes that Monica is dying of brain tumor.

This film has so much potential to be better than it is.  Maybe it’s a case of the book being better but I don’t know.  Something just felt off to me when I was watching Holy Lands.  There are quite a few plot threads to follow and before too long, it’s all too much.  The humor potential is there when it comes to the fight between Harry and Moshe over the pig farm.  The pig farm alone could be a movie in its own right!  Fundamentalist Christian Eusebius wants Harry gone for religious reasons.  You almost feel like he’s been added solely to heighten the comedic stakes!  But–again–this is something that can only be stretched out so far before getting old.

The cinematography is beautiful.  We’re able to take in some great sites in Israel, including when Annabelle visits the Kotel to pray for Monica.  Taking in the Dead Sea is a sight to behold in its own right.  Israeli sites have so much to offer on the big screen.  It’s only a shame that we don’t get to see them often enough.

A dramedy about family dysfunction can go one of two ways.  It’s not until the film comes to an end in which some loose strings are finally tied.  By this point, we’re only left to wonder if it’s too late.  Harry’s voiceover at the end comes as he bares his heart and soul to David.  Is it too late?  I don’t know.  There’s a lot that could have been explored with regards to their relationship.  The film gives us a solid amount of time to explore Harry’s relationship with Annabelle.  Speaking of Annabelle, actress Efrat Dor is a revelation in the role.

At its best, Holy Lands features some solid performances but unfortunately, this is just too few and far between.

CAST:  James Caan, Tom Hollander, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Efrat Dor, and Rosanna Arquette, with Patrick Bruel

Cinedigm opens Holy Lands in theaters and VOD on June 21, 2019. Grade: 2.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.