iMordecai Is A Love Letter To Family

Judd Hirsch in iMordecai.

Marvin Samel turned to writing after his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and brings his family’s story to the screen in iMordecai.

Any disease that impacts memory is bound to painful. Not just for the person diagnosed with them but for their family. It shouldn’t take such a diagnosis to propel someone to write down their family memories but it is what happened in this instance. In any event, it’s now a dramedy for all to see–starting with audiences in New York and Los Angeles.

But first, some quick background on who Mordecai is. He was born in Poland in 1933 and turned six in the leadup to the Nazi Germany invasion in 1939. While his immediate family fled, others were killed. His own dad was sent to a gulag in Soviet Russia while he spent his youth in a Siberian orphanage. Following the war, Mordecai would serve in the Israeli Army, later fighting in wars in both 1956 and 1957. Eventually, he would immigrate to the US in 1970. All in all, Judd Hirsch beautifully brings Mordecai to life on the screen. Call it a perk of the pandemic or whatever but Mordecai’s backstory is shown in animation. You can think the pandemic for preventing them from filming scenes in Poland.

Rather than making himself the focus of the film, Marvin focuses on his Holocaust survivor parents, Mordecai (Judd Hirsch) and Fela (Carol Kane). As the film shows, writing can be very therapeutic! Of course, you couldn’t make this film without Marvin (Sean Astin) playing a role in the story. In any event, Mordecai’s life completely changes when Marvin gives him an iPhone. Mordecai is a fixer–he works as a plumber and a painter. But as he gets up there in age, he finds things that he cannot fix. It’s those things that play a role in this film. Not just Fela’s diagnosis but Mordecai’s relationship with his own son. And yet, Marvin giving his father a new phone is the inciting incident that drives the plot forward. Mordecai soon gets lessons in how to use the phone from Nina (Azia Dinea Hale).

Marvin and his wife, Netta (Stephanie J. Block), are parents of twins. In addition, Marvin is looking at selling his cigar company but his parents are getting older and this keeps getting in the way. There’s generational differences and it certainly shows in the film. Fela hides the medical issues from her family until her doctor intervenes. She is very close to the point where she cannot be alone, too. Marvin still has some traumatic experiences from his youth that impacts his relationship with his dad, too.

Nina offers Mordecai more than just lessons in how to use a smartphone. It’s through their talks that he is able to find a path towards healing. Survivors of the Holocaust may be getting older and dying. What bonds them together is the shared trauma. Talk to any kid of a survivor and they’ll probably share similar stories about their parents when it comes to the Holocaust. Not everyone is able to open up their story let alone how they survived. This film gives us one more story to go on public record: Mordecai Samel. When Nina drops a piece of bombshell information on him about her own family, you wonder if their newfound friendship will ever be the same. Will Nina be able to confront her own family on this news?

Nina’s role in the film is sure to lead to discussion. She’s a composite character for the Apple store workers in real life. It’s very early on when her she learns her paternal grandfather was a Nazi and a guard at Treblinka. How does one react to learning this news? Did her father know about this? What about her mother? Although the film is completely different, it reminds me of one of the storylines in Becca Gleason’s coming-of-age comedy, Summer ’03. But still, knowing she is a fictional composite, I do wonder if making her grandfather a Nazi was necessary. Why couldn’t he have been one of the camp liberators?

iMordecai isn’t just a therapeutic love letter but it gets another Holocaust survivor story out there in the open for all to see.

DIRECTOR: Marvin Samel
SCREENWRITERS: Marvin Samel & Rudy Gaines and Dahlia Heyman
CAST: Judd Hirsch, Carol Kane, and Sean Astin, Stephanie J. Block, and introducing Azia Dinea Hale

Greenwich Entertainment will release iMordecai in theaters on February 24, 2023. Grade: 3.5/5

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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.