Films tend to confirm, not confront, stereotypes. Not so Israeli director Rama Burshtein’s exquisitely acted, radiantly shot, and delicately nuanced “Fill the Void,” a melodrama set in the ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jewish community of Tel Aviv. By bringing to life complex and sympathetic characters in a precisely observed setting and social framework, and by presenting that isolated world as a microcosm, Burshtein has achieved a gripping film without victims or villains, an ambiguous tragedy drawing on universal themes of love and loss, self-sacrifice and self-preservation.
First comes love. In a supermarket, 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron), attended by her mother, Rivka (Irit Sheleg), spies on the young man whom she has to marry. Contrary to expectations, she’s totally smitten. But then in the middle of a robust Purim celebration, Shira’s older sister Esther (Renana Raz) dies in childbirth.