Tom Mercier’s performance is brilliant and engaging.
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
Lapid’s film is too fresh and intransigent to know how well it will age over time or hold up to repeat viewings, but on first blush it feels like a powerful howl that’s hard to hear clearly, and harder still to get out of your head.
As an exercise in depicting the disjointed link between national and personal identity, Synonyms is dazzling. As a portrait of displacement in a world becoming both more globalized and more nationalistic, it is a testament.
Filmmaker and subject also share a disdain for restraint, shouting and jostling to ensure we’ve gotten their point. But while their parallel passions aren’t exactly subtle, they do make their mark.
Above all, it’s about the impossible desire, shared by both expats and artists, to forge an identity of one’s own. But whereas the films it quotes sought to create cryptic and contrapuntal meanings, Lapid errs on the side of the loudly obvious, building to a final shot that might as well be a thesis statement for the rest of the film.
Breathtaking in the way it careens from one scene to the next in a whirlwind of personal and political meaning all but impossible to grasp in full measure, the film is an excoriation of Israel’s militant machismo and a self-teasing parody of Parisian stereotypes, embodied by actor Tom Mercier in this astonishingly audacious debut.
One word for Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms, a movie with a hero obsessed with words, is astonishing. Other words apply to this Israeli feature, in subtitled French and Hebrew, that’s set in Paris. They include, in no particular order, fascinating, infuriating, frightening, lyrical and befuddling. Plus deadpan funny and frequently stunning as a bittersweet ode to contemporary France, one that’s suffused with New Wave verve.
The result is mixed: buoyantly energetic at times, manically unamusing at others and decidedly overstretched.
Lapid continues to exhibit a singular blend of intensity and absurdity, as well as a distinct attention to cinematic craft.
Furious, brilliant, exhausting, Synonyms is the story of a man in self-imposed exile.