Every family struggles when parents and children do not see eye to eye. Yet, for immigrant families, seeing eye to eye tends to lead to intercultural misunderstandings. As a result, many children of immigrant parents attempt to assimilate to “be normal,” unaware that their cultural upbringing will be far more important in the long term. Yet without the maturity to understand why these divides exist, an individual may hold resentment towards the people who love them most. Sulam (Ladder) seeks to highlight one such relationship.
Director Noam Argov approaches Sulam (Ladder) with a deft hand. She brings out the nuance in the situation, which quickly establishes the divide between the mother and daughter. While the mother (Mor Cohen) needs help upkeeping the house, daughter Alma (Oriah Elgrabli) needs to get to school. The two argue about how to proceed, which reaches a fever pitch at a hardware store.
Cohen expertly keys into the frustration of her situation. The leaking roof exposes a legitimate risk to her family, and her daughter represents her only communicative outlet in a new country. Rather than help her mother, Alma wishes to establish her own friends and life. Elgrabli also showcases this with subtle choices. A glance at her mother, the shifting posture, and the nervous energy all feel relatable. Add a language barrier and communication issues, and you have a powder keg.
Argov clearly understands how to milk the most tension out of the situation. Argov allows frustration to build and the frustration to build from all participants. She’s also willing to let the bubbling anger actually come to a head. Depending on how and where a member of the audience grows up, they may identify with different sides of the fight. It makes for an interesting story that should appeal to most audiences while also allowing everyone to identify with at least one character. An action toward the end of the short is every bit as intense as it should feel. Yet it’s a silent exchange in the closing moments that sticks with you.
Diving into the complicated emotions of the immigrant experience can be difficult. Yet even when your characters come from a particular ethnic or regional background, great filmmakers find the universal moments between us all. Sulam (Ladder) captures these moments and hits home to anyone who suffers strife with their parents. Argov continues to build an impressive resume. Her visual choices also prove adept here, and her shot selection is quite excellent. Argov seems destined to tell genuinely intriguing stories in the very near future.