At 37, Miri is a twice-widowed, El Al flight attendant. Her well-regulated existence is suddenly turned upside down by an abandoned Chinese boy whose migrant-worker mother has been summarily deported from Israel.
With a central plot that unites two lost souls in an unconventional love story, Noodle has all the makings of a mechanical 'feelgood" film (did I mention one of the lost souls is a cute little kid?). Mercifully, what could have been a homespun movie of the week in less capable hands manages to pack an emotional punch.
Mili Avital has a commanding screen presence as a sad El Al flight attendant, Miri, a war widow twice over. She dishes out advice to her feuding sister, Gila, and brother-in-law Izzy, but bristles defensively when the subject of relationships is turned back on her.
When Miri returns home from a flight, she becomes the reluctant babysitter of her Chinese housekeeper's young son when the woman leaves hastily to attend to an urgent errand. Several hours – and noodle boxes – later, it’s obvious to all that the woman isn’t coming back.
The woman’s mobile phone rings out, the young boy doesn’t speak Hebrew and Miri knows no Mandarin, so their feeble attempts to communicate fall flat. While Izzy buys a phrasebook, Miri recruits Gila and her friends to some amateur sleuth work to orchestrate a reunion between mother and son (whom they have taken to calling 'Noodle’).
Coincidence drives a couple of the key plot points (a former lover of Gila’s resurfaces and – guess what? – he speaks Mandarin; another friend has incredible connections to the upper tiers of Israeli bureaucracy) but director Menahemi manages to rise above the contrivances; he keeps the pace steady, the sarcasm heavy and the treacle at a minimum – though I shudder to think what an inevitable Hollywood remake would do with the same material"¦ (it’d probably star Katherine Heigl, for starters).
Noodle took out the Montreal Film Festival's grand jury prize and the Best Supporting Actress award at the Israeli Academy Awards. It should travel well and resonate with Australian audiences due to its astute observations of the nature of displacement and all-around excellent performances.
Read an interview with Mili Avital here
Listen to an extended interview with Mili Avital in Hebrew here