Another strong showing from Israel in Yuma's independent film series, “Off White Lies” is a father-daughter road picture in the spirit of “Paper Moon” way back in the '70s. Although “Lies” is set against the backdrop of the second war with Lebanon in 2006, it actually takes no political position and instead offers a measure of bittersweet dramedy about a girl's coming of age and her dad's quixotic search for himself.
What does your dad do?
Thirteen-year-old Libi has grown up in California, but now her mom evidently thinks that dad should have to take it from here. Shaul, who stayed back in Israel when the marriage went south, has always wanted the privilege of raising his daughter and has even been willing to tell some, well, white lies to make it happen.
Specifically, he's been saying he's got a good job and a nice place to live. But in fact the only work he does is inventing gadgets of questionable value, the type of thing that's advertised on late-night TV at two for $19.99. Down at the patent office they know him by first name, but it isn't clear he's ever actually sold anything.
Shaul does have a nice Volvo to drive when he picks Libi up from the airport, but it turns out even that belongs to someone else: a free-spirited lady friend who will loan him her car but will only let him close enough to toss the key back and forth from the upstairs balcony.
In showing his daughter around the homeland, Shaul's first activity is a road trip up to the northern frontier to bum some money off an old friend. They actually do get a taste of adventure, though, when everybody has to scramble for the local bomb shelter during a Hezbollah missile attack.
Five's a crowd
When they return to Jerusalem, they stumble upon a way to turn their trip up north into a solution for their homelessness. That is, there's a foster-home program underway for refugees from the war zone to stay with affluent families in the interior. And it won't really be a lie on their part; after all, they've just come down “from the North.” All that's really required of them is the imagination to fill in a few details.
Our gypsy pair find a host family in no time. Although the lady of the house isn't very enthusiastic about taking in strangers, Dad is a patriotic if humorless officer in the Army Reserves, who thinks it's their duty to support their beleaguered country folk. The least neurotic of the residents is the 18-year-old son, who tends to keep to himself, playing video games and rock music in his darkened room.
The contrast between the two families offers ample opportunity for comedy as well as drama.
Of course Shaul and Libi have a few close calls in keeping their story straight. On the more serious side is the potential for romantic complications. But there's reason for optimism, too, in the possibility that the two men will form a business relationship over one of Shaul's new gadgets.
“Off White Lies” offers a glimpse into a very different set of cultural assumptions, from the refreshing perspective of an insightful woman director. It's also a twist on a universal familial relationship and on a couple of archetypal personalities that never fail to entertain.