Tammy & the Bachelor: Yedaya’s Bid for Controversy Grimly Punishes Audience
Keren Yedaya is back to punish us like never before with her latest film, That Lovely Girl, an exploration of a violently incestuous father-daughter bond. An adolescent female in a highly dysfunctional relationship with a single parent centers the feature, as with her 2004 debut, Or My Treasure, which focused on a daughter struggling with keeping her mother from engaging in prostitution. But here, Yedaya shares a more vile existence exploring perverse love and dangerous addictions that are frustratingly conveyed. Based on the novel Away From His Absence by Shez, its exploration of a cracked worldview results in something you’ll desperately wish to forget but won’t be able to.
Tammy (Maayan Turjeman) and Moshe (Tzahi Grad) seem to be a rather chummy father and daughter duo, enjoying a nice breakfast at a restaurant one morning. As Moshe leers at the waitress, Tammy goes to the bathroom to throw up her food. Upon returning, she’s chastised by her father for being unable to enjoy a good spread. When they get home, we learn that their relationship is closer than suspected, engaging in sexual relations. Quickly we learn that Tammy is obsessively in love with her father, who also ridicules her about her weight in between degrading sexual encounters. Suspecting he’s having an affair, Tammy confronts him, only to get slapped around and forced to spend Passover with dad’s new girlfriend. The event sends Tammy to the streets, where she stumbles into a pack of stoned young men on the beach, all of whom she eventually lets have sex with her. Losing her purse, she scours the beach distraught, running into a kindly woman named Shuli (Yael Abecassis), who offers Tammy a ride to her own home.
While Yedaya avoids overt gestures of exploitation in Tammy’s tale of woe, it also doesn’t register as anything more than an exercise in miserabilism. We’re hemmed in with Tammy, emotionally imprisoned within her cage of an apartment, the camera often nestled uncomfortably close. The bleak rhythm of Tammy’s existence is revealed between bouts of bulimia and cutting, her only methods of control she can exert on her physical being. Tzahi Grad, who many may recognize from an equally unlikable turn in last year’s Big Bad Wolves, is over the top as the domineering, rapist father. Their interactions reach intense moments of discomfort, but as unpleasant as these moments are, including sodomy and a gangbang on the beach, we never get to see what’s beyond the provocation.
As Tammy navigates through her predicament, she seems more a case study than a flesh and blood character. It doesn’t help that certain information is never shared with the audience, particularly in the second half when Tammy’s savior figure, Shuli, provides safe shelter. But Shuli’s intentions are never made clear. This creates an uncomfortable ambiguity—is she also preying on Tammy? At the same time, we’re not sure if she knows just how fucked up Tammy is, or if she happened to notice all her scars and the bloody word ‘die’ carved into her arm. While the subject matter is certainly worthy of exploration, That Lovely Girl feels like its aim is to punish rather than enlighten, to paralyze rather than incite further discussion.
Reviewed on May 15 at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival – Un Certain Regard – 97 Minutes