Provocative as the film is, it doesn’t fully reconcile Tsemel’s contradictions, if such a thing were even possible or desirable.
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
Tsemel’s hard demands on her family and co-workers alike are kept in view: “Advocate” isn’t a bland hagiography, but a textured nonfiction character study of complicated heroism. You can’t challenge the system, after all, without being a bit challenging yourself.
At one point, Tsemel describes herself as a member of an occupying force and defines her mission in life as to somehow rectify the resultant power imbalance. The only way to get there, as the film's pointed final image suggests, is to keep on trudging.
The most gripping parts of Advocate are the film’s fly-on-the-wall cinéma vérité sequences of Tsemel at work, meeting with clients’ families, navigating the legal system and conferring about cases with fellow attorneys and her staff.
The directorial choices, from the minimal use of music for dramatic embellishment to the innovative split-screen technique used to blur the identities of individuals in courthouse footage, are spot-on throughout.
Advocate is a reminder to audiences everywhere of the importance of the rule of law, its equal application and appointing judges who understand that importance.