Shem

"OK"

Shem Review


A bizarre European road trip that bounces from one city to another, Shem is a film that starts out strong but steadily loses its way until it flames out in an ending so misguided that you'll wish writer/director Caroline Roboh had let you look at the screenplay ahead of time and asked for your advice. It would have been so easy to fix!

We meet Daniel (Ash Newman), a great-looking 20-ish bisexual lothario, in London, where he sneaks out of the bed of his much older (female) lover and moves on to the next bedroom to kiss her son goodbye as well. That's some sexual conquest.

When he meets up with his aged grandmother (Hadassah Hungar Diamant), she suddenly informs him that she suspects she'll die soon and her last wish is that he find the grave of her father, a noted rabbi who disappeared somewhere in Europe in the chaos of World War II. It's a tall order, but Daniel agrees to give it a go, and his first stop will be Paris.

"Shem" means "name" in Hebrew, and it's interesting that the slippery way Daniel likes to introduce himself with a different name every time he meets someone. In a Jewish museum in Paris, he meets up with a femme fatate (Cyrielle Clair), who later shows up in his compartment on the night train to Berlin for a night of wild night-train-to-Berlin sex (is there any better kind?). Then she disappears, but Daniel is lucky enough to hit on a lovely young Jewish woman (Geraldine de Bastion), who becomes his guide. But with no good clues about the rabbi in Berlin, he moves on to Prague, where once again he's distracted from his search by hedonistic sex and debauchery.

It's more of the same in Budapest (where he almost loses his life in a not-very-sexy bondage encounter with an older man), and he plods on to Bucharest, where he's assisted by yet another young woman (Gordana Grubjsesic) who tells harrowing tales of life during wartime. Then it's on to Sofia, Bulgaria, the end of a line for a trail that has blown both hot and cold.

It's all very scenic and interesting in a Rough Guide to Eastern Europe sort of way, and Daniel has a couple of crying jags during which he questions his identity, his behavior, his Jewishness, and his purpose. But an absurd subplot about hidden jewels subverts the story of Daniel's spiritual journey, and in the end the film delivers neither the obvious happy ending nor a suitably emotionally gripping finale. The actual ending will send you looking for any nearby wall against which to bang your head.

Kudos to Ash Newman for all the energy he expended on making this picaresque journey, but a better movie might have kept him in home in London stirring up sexual excitement as he hopped from bed to bed.

What's your sign?



Facts and Figures

Run time: 25 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 30th May 2004

Production compaines: BIF Productions, Visual Factory

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Caroline Roboh

Producer: Caroline Roboh

Starring: Asier Newman as Daniel, Cyrielle Clair as Berlin, Arturo Brachetti as Arturo, Hadassah Hungar Diamant as Grandma, Geraldine de Bastion as Berlin Girl, Ferrante Ferranti as Himself, Gordana Grubjsesic as Gordana, David Merlini as Gabor, as Elijah

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