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August 10, 2021 11:34 am
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‘Talking To God’ Is a Whimsical, Joyous Film

avatar by Alan Zeitlin

Opinion

A screenshot from Talking to God: Photo: provided

If you had the chance to talk to God for one day, what would you ask for?

In the new film “Talking To God,” the lead character Rebecca would settle for a good night’s sleep, as she has back pains, insomnia, and doesn’t want to take pills.

“You’re lonely,” her rabbi tells her. “You need to find the right guy.”

“Talking To God” is existential, but also whimsical and fairy-tale like. While it starts off a bit slow, we eventually do care about Rebecca and want her to find whatever truth she’s seeking. When a friend suggests the book “The Garden of Emuna,” by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, and a woman in a pink hat says she went to Ukraine and it changed her life, Rebecca (Maya Batash) decides to high tail it out of Staten Island and head to Uman, Ukraine, where the rabbi is buried.

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Batash, who is also the writer and director of the movie, manages to craft a low-budget film that is worthy of high praise. The story and script are very simple, and the actors don’t try to do too much. Batash taps into the universal feeling that we need to connect with God more, and she interjects humor and a lot of shtick in a way that really shouldn’t work — but it does.

That’s largely due to the acting of Batash, who plays it straight, and the fanciful performance of Zebedee Row, a fix it man named Larry, who looks slightly like Brad Pitt and wears a cap and vest.

In one scene, a seemingly religious Jewish woman randomly goes on and on about her romantic dreams with Julio Iglesias, only to finally learn the woman she’s telling these stories to can’t understand English. It’s the best knee-slapper in the film.

“Talking To God” almost becomes too preachy, but it stays on the right path. Of course we know that in the real world, things don’t always work out. But for those with faith, there is a mantra that everything that gets thrown at you is from God — and the characters try to balance who they are with the challenges that they encounter. For example, it’s nice to see Row’s charm as he signs up to be a soldier, but then has to figure out how to get out of executing a man because it’s not in his DNA to do so.

“Talking To God” is a film that grows on you and gives you hope that you might just meet someone who will change your life, be it romantically or to better your financial or social situation. My only quibble is it would have been nice for Rebecca to have a romantic interest, but a formulaic approach where every loose end is tied up perfectly is not exactly an original idea either. Batash clearly sacrificed some commercial appeal to stick with her artistic vision — and for that, she deserves credit.

Regardless of your level of faith, this is a film that will make you want to celebrate your life, no matter what obstacles are in your way.

“Talking To God” is streaming, and will soon be in select theaters.

The author is a writer in New York City.

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