'The Other Son': Arab and Jew, switched at birth

In a missile attack, a hospital in Haifa is evacuated. In the chaos, two babies in the maternity ward are switched. One goes home with an Israeli couple - a minister in the defense department and his French-born wife. The other is taken by Palestinian parents. It is not until the two children are almost 18 that the mistake is discovered.

To find out that the child you have raised is not genetically yours is a seismic enough shock - for the parents, for the sons. Add to that the huge divide between Arab and Jew - represented by the barbed-wired walls and security crossings snaking along the West Bank - and the effects can be devastating.

Such is the situation in The Other Son, a parablelike melodrama with obvious symbolic meaning. Joseph (Jules Sitruk), the curly-headed, guitar-strumming Palestinian raised by Alon and Orith Silberg (Pascal Elbe and Emmanuelle Devos), and Yacine (Medhi Dehbi), the Israeli by birth, raised by Said and Leila al Bezaaz (Khalifa Natour and Areen Omari) and just back from his studies in Paris, are the products of cultures and religions that are not, by birthright, theirs.

Does their education, their parenting, account for nothing? Is it right that Joseph, who had enlisted in the Israeli Air Force, is now denied service - because his DNA says he is an Arab?

In unhurried fashion, director Lorraine Levy examines the cruel irony at play, and how respective family members - the fathers, the mothers, Yacine's older brother - react. The moment when the hospital's chief doctor reveals the catastrophic mixup to the two sets of parents - whom he has asked to bring photos of their sons to share - ripples with quiet discord, disbelief, and heartbreak.

Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies.


The Other Son (Le fils de l'autre)

Directed by Lorraine Lévy. With Diana Zriek, Marie Wisselmann, Khalifa Natour, Areen Omari, Mehdi Dehbi, Mahmood Shalabi, Pascal Elbé, Jules Sitruk, Bruno Podalydès, Emmanuelle Devos. Distributed by Cohen Media Group.

Running time: 1 hours, 45 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for a scene of violence, brief language and drug use).