Working Woman – Review

Working Woman is currently playing at the IFC Center and Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan.

By Rachel M.

This Israeli film tells an internationally relatable story. Orna, (Liron Ben Shlush) is the mother of three young children with a husband struggling to start his own restaurant. To help support her family Orna returns to the workplace, landing a job with a former army superior, Benny (Menashe Noy) who is now a successful real estate developer. Initially, Orna embraces her new position and tries to balance its demands with her home life, facing dilemmas that all working mothers can relate to. She feels conflicted when she can’t stay home with a sick child, and she misses pick up from daycare. She feels good about her beginning successes but feels at odds with herself about spending increasingly more time away from home.

After a short while, Orna begins to experience escalating sexual harassment from her boss. Her rapid rise through the ranks and her increasing financial success parallel a pattern of predatory behavior. In a typical #metoo story, Orna questions what she is doing to attract this attention and attempt various maneuvers to try to end her boss’ advances. A work trip to Paris brings her career and marital relationship to the brink.

This timely and devastating story is expertly told by longtime feminist filmmaker Michal Aviad. By the time Orna returns from the trip, the viewer has become quite invested in how the situation will resolve and what Orna will do, both with her boss and with her husband. Aviad demonstrates “how the relationship between employer and subordinate, when infused with sexual elements, is complex and difficult to separate from successful and prolific work relations.”

The film was shot with a handheld camera in long takes, mostly one shot per scene. There are about 100 shots in the film. The long takes allow for realistic time flow and emphasize the complex shades of feelings and decisions of each character. The camera’s movements, (i.e., clinging to Orna’s neck), and focus changes tell the story of the scene. The story is told from essentially two perspectives: the POV of the heroine, to understand what she is going through. At the same time there is a more knowledgeable POV, let’s say – the filmmaker’s POV, which exposes the societal norms that blind the other protagonists in the story.

This relatively short film (93 minutes) tells a powerful story that should interest men and women around the world who are thinking about gender imbalance in the workplace. A poignant tale, Working Woman demonstrates how an incident of harassment can ruin a woman’s life.

The film had its world premiere at the 2018 Jerusalem Film Festival and premiered internationally at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. After its run in NYC and at the Westchester Jewish Film Festival in early April, it will be showing in various locations throughout the US.

I give Working Woman an A-.