"From Boy to Man"
THE MATCHMAKER is an Israeli coming-of-age story. It takes place in Haifa, in the summer of 1968 as teenager Arik Burnstein transitions from boyhood to manhood. Yankele Bride, known as Yasi, is a Holocaust survivor who works as a matchmaker finding marriage partners for his clients. His company is a front for his goods smuggling operation. He also helps Miss Clara, another Holocaust survivor, secretly run an illegal card game club for the wealthy or socially refined. She and Yasi care very deeply for each other, but she can’t give herself to him because of the physical, sexual, emotional abuse she endured at the hands of the Nazi soldiers.
After a boyish prank on Yasi goes wrong, Yasi hires Arik to work for him for the summer as his new “spy guy” to detect possible new clients. Arik’s mother is concerned he’s too young to be working with Yasi in the part of town where fast women and hustlers of all kinds do business, but Arik and his father say he’s old enough. Arik’s job is to follow potential suitors or ladies who have come to Yasi for help in finding a spouse. Arik follows these clients to ensure they are really good matches, without any concealed indecency in their lives that would disqualify them from Yasi’s services.
Arik has an adventurous summer as he learns the art to following and reading people, especially women. Arik is reluctant to follow people behind closed doors, and Yasi gives him tips on how to be deceitful to get information for the greater good of insuring a quality match of people with integrity.
Arik is an avid writer and reader of detective stories and frequents the library. There, he’s advised by Meir the librarian on good books to read. Arik refers Meir to Yasi because Meir is shy, feels he’s unattractive and lacks confidence with women, but is looking for love.
Meanwhile, Arik also meets his best friend Benny’s cousin Tamara. She’s a Westernized teenager and headstrong feminist who will be staying with Benny’s family for the summer. Eventually the immodest, rule-breaking Tamara becomes Arik’s love (or lust) interest, and they are sexually involved. Arik feels shame while Tamara becomes jaded. This threatens to ruin his life.
The story takes a dark turn when Meir visits Yasi’s matchmaking services, meets Miss Clara, and falls in love with her. Yasi refuses to arrange Meir as a suitor for Clara because he loves her too.
THE MATCHMAKER has clear shots with good composition. A few times the subtitles are difficult to read depending on the color of the background behind the print. Overall, however, the story has a nice pace that’s easy to follow without being dull or predictable.
Several comments on society deal with Nazism and the emotional and economical aftermath of the Holocaust for survivors. Choices in morality and ethics, love and heartache, and integrity are recurring themes. The ethical perspective of Yasi is utilitarian. He believes in doing the greatest good for the most people, even if it requires less than moral actions at times. That’s his rationale for his tactics in his matchmaking service, as well as his smuggling activities to provide wanted or needed goods for people despite the government’s somewhat socialist penalties for smuggling such products. Also, Tamara expresses strong feminist views, but Arik doesn’t always go along with her lawless attitude.
There are some other ethical issues in THE MATCHMAKER. Those include a sexual scene between Tamara and Arik. Fornication is never right, but it’s even more disconcerting when depicted by actors who are minors or playing roles in which they are still minors. Secondly, while Arik isn’t entirely innocent, he does have a sense of modesty and respect for rules and moral codes. He decides not to follow the crowd at Tamara’s beckoning and jump into a fountain at a Scouts meeting. Arik also doesn’t want to say anything obscene when he speaks with Yasi, though Yasi does. Arik also doesn’t feel right about lying to follow people into their homes. Yet, these are things Yasi, the adult leader, teaches Arik for “the greater good.” For viewers, this sends a mixed message about doing the right thing, regardless.
MOVIEGUIDE® recommends extreme caution and discretion regarding THE MATCHMAKER. Despite the questionable material, the story itself was very nicely done with well-defined characters and an engaging story from start to finish.
PaPa, B, So, Fe, LL, SS, NN, MM) Strong mixed pagan worldview as Strong socialist worldview as people supply one another with smuggled goods; a mild to strong moral worldview and feminism is light worldview for overall story, but is strongly held by the protagonist’s Tamara who opposes tradition and modesty and even burns all her bras in protest; 17 obscenities and profanities, including the “f” word, and an obscene gesture; no violence; implied and depicted fornication as man with prostitute begin unfastening each other’s clothes, two teenagers kiss and remove their shirts, voyeurism as teenager watches through peephole as teenage girl gets dressed, implied prostitution; upper female nudity in sexual situation, upper male nudity, rear female nudity in dressing scene, scantily clad women; and, man tells teenager it’s okay to say a**, illegal card-playing, smuggling, lust, defiance of parents.
THE MATCHMAKER is an Israeli coming-of-age story. It takes place in Haifa in the summer of 1968 where a teenager, Arik Burnstein, moves from boyhood to manhood. Arik works as a spy for a matchmaker who’s a Holocaust survivor. Arik develops a love interest in a Westernized teenager named Tamara. The plot takes a dark turn when Arik recommends the matchmaker’s rival for the hand of another Holocaust victim.
THE MATCHMAKER is edited well with well-composed shots. Despite some questionable material, the story itself is nicely done. It has well-defined characters and an engaging story from start to finish. Several comments on society deal with Nazism and the emotional and economic aftermath of the Holocaust for Jewish survivors. Choices in morality and ethics, integrity, love, and heartache are recurring themes. Regrettably, there’s some immoral behavior, including a pre-marital relationship between the two teenagers. The young protagonist is sometimes affected by the immorality around him. Thus, the movie’s moral messages are mixed. MOVIEGUIDE® recommends extreme caution and discretion regarding THE MATCHMAKER.