Sebastian Lelio On Directing Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams in Jewish Lesbian Love Story Disobedience

The two Rachels — Weisz and McAdams — hit the red carpet for the U.S. premiere of Disobedience at the Tribeca Film Festival Tuesday evening. (It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September.) They were joined by fellow cast mate Alessandro Novola and director Sebastián Lelio, who recently received the best film Oscar for “A Fantastic Woman.”

Weisz recently announced he and her husband Daniel Craig, a.k.a. James Bond, were expecting a baby. The 48-year-old actress, who has producing credit on her new film, was wearing a flowing Chloe gown and was beginning to show. 

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Rachel Weisz/Paula Schwartz photo

Weisz talked to reporters on the red carpet about her Orthodox Jewish lesbian love story, which she also produced. The movie is an adaptation of the novel by Naomi Alderman which is set in a closed Orthodox Jewish community in London. 

Weisz plays Ronit, who was shunned from her community because of her relationship with her female friend Esti. Ronit returns for the funeral of her father, a revered rabbi in London. When she arrives she learns her father disinherited her. And also that Esti has married David (Nivola), a childhood friend who is also her father’s successor as chief rabbi. 

The two women still harbor an attraction for each other and Esti initiates a relationship that becomes a full-fledged love affair. The affair scandalizes the close-knit Jewish community in which she lives and upturns the lives of both women who are faced with life-altering decisions. Weisz and McAdams are touching as two women whose lives are affected by repression, and their sex scenes are believable and tasteful. This is sort of a Jewish “Blue is the Warmest Color” with fewer and more sedate sex scenes.

Lelio, who is making his English-language debut, told reporters on the red carpet “it was a lot of work” conveying the authenticity of this Jewish community that is closed to outsiders. 

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Sebastian Lelio/Paula Schwartz photo

“We had lots of consultants, people from within the community who were very generous with us and so it was a lot of work to try to get the cultural texture right,” he said. “And then to get rid of that and then concentrate on the characters, which is truly what matters the most.”

As to why he chose as his first English-language feature such a challenging subject, he told reporters, “Maybe because it was challenging and because it was unknown to me and it’s a neighborhood that not even Londoners know.” 

Weisz was attached to the project from the beginning he said and she invited Lelio to co-write and direct the movie. “I loved the novel,” he said. “It felt challenging enough to spend a couple of years in something that is going to be demanding.” 

He’s just finished his second English-speaking movie he told me. It is a remake of his own wonderful movie “Gloria,” which will star Julianne Moore. “We’re about to finish it,” he told me. Why remake what is a perfect film I asked? “Because it’s a challenge and it’s dangerous so it’s attractive.”

Disobedience opens Friday, April 27.

Disobedience
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 24: Actresses Rachel McAdams (L) and Rachel Weisz attend the Disobedience premiere during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 24, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

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About Paula Schwartz

Paula Schwartz is a veteran journalist who worked at the New York Times for three decades. For five years she was the Baguette for the New York Times movie awards blog Carpetbaggers. Before that she worked on the New York Times night life column, Boldface, where she covered the celebrity beat. She endured a poke in the ribs by Elijah Wood's publicist, was ejected from a party by Michael Douglas's flak after he didn't appreciate what she wrote, and endured numerous other indignities to get a story. More happily she interviewed major actors and directors - all of whom were good company and extremely kind- including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, Christopher Plummer, Dustin Hoffman and the hammy pooch "Uggie" from "The Artist." Her idea of heaven is watching at least three movies in a row with an appreciative audience that's not texting. Her work has appeared in Moviemaker, more.com, showbiz411 and reelifewithjane.com.

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