Director: Joshua Weinstein
Running Time: 82 minutes
A quiet, poignantly told tale of a man who’s not exactly an outcast, yet who struggles to fit into a very ordered society. Welcome to the world that Menashe inhabits.
The titular schlubby hero of Menashe might, with a few tweaks, be a perfect fit for the lead of a Judd Apatow comedy about a wayward man-child. He works a fairly menial job at a supermarket stocking shelves, but still manages to be bad at it; he’s well-liked by his co-workers, but irritating to his boss and his family, all of whom wish he’d stop cracking jokes and iron his shirts once in a while. Though Menashe (played by Menashe Lustig) is quite a relatable ne’er-do-well, his story is set in Hasidic Jewish Brooklyn, one of America’s most insular communities.
Joshua Z. Weinstein’s debut fiction film (he has directed several documentaries) is heavily indebted to the classic neorealism of the ’60s but is delivered entirely in Yiddish. At times sweet, but never patronizing, Menashe examines a world that might seem foreign or oppressive even to other Brooklynites who live alongside the Hasidim, without ever turning its inhabitants into either caricatures or figures of fun.
Menashe is wise not to be preachy, or to make sweeping judgments about Hasidic life. Weinstein’s workmanlike camera style allows him to act as a bystander who has gotten closer to a world that’s still sealed-off (the director struggled to convince Hasidic actors to participate in the project). In grounding the story in a particular personality, and the familiar connection between a father and son, Weinstein has created a subtly powerful work of human drama, driven by the charismatic, if frustrating, man at its center.
~~ David Sims, theatlantic.com