Working Woman (Isha Ovedet)
Liron Ben-Shlush, Menashe Noy, Oshri Cohen
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Though at times uncomfortable to watch, Working Woman is a film with immense rewards.
Orna (Liron Ben-Shlush) is a woman with a young family – three small children and a husband, played by Oshri Cohen. Struggling to stretch the dollars, Orna takes a job as an assistant to Benny (Menashe Noy) – a high-powered realtor – despite the “irregular” hours. We learn it’s a necessary move given that her husband’s restaurant has only recently opened, and his business is still finding stability. “Shouldn’t you find a regular job until things level out?” he suggests. But this one holds a lot of potential for her and her family.
Orna takes to her new vocation right away, applying her organisational skills with instinctive efficiency, even making savvy suggestions that quickly establish her as a valuable addition to the team and immediately proving an asset to realising the completion of Benny’s pet project, the biggest and the most prestigious of his career.
But, pretty soon Benny’s blurring the lines between boss and friend, commenting on her appearance and asking for her input on his, even telling her what to wear to important sales meetings. Soon follow outrageous compliments, plus a raise. But, in turn, Benny steps up his advances and “jokes”… We see Orna experiencing escalating sexual harassment from her boss, completely at a loss as to how best to handle it.
Meanwhile, her husband’s restaurant is struggling. He pressures her to ask favours of her boss, not realising the precarious situation she is facing with her overbearing and predatory boss.
Subtle storytelling and delicate dialogue shapes a portrait of the vague and elusive nature of sexual harassment in a job that matters too much. Caught in the middle of this quandary, we see Orna frozen by the (somewhat) subtle attacks, unable to confide in anyone about it. Eventually, when events escalate to an unbearable extent, broaching the matter leads to the inevitable victim-blaming and fielding accusations from her incredulous husband. “If you didn’t want it, it wouldn’t have happened,” he remonstrates. Like most sexual-assault victims, she’s in a no-win situation and needs to find her own way out of it.
Director Michal Aviad navigates the tricky subject matter with astonishingly sensitivity, and we see thoroughly credible and nuanced performances from both of the main players as the drama unfolds.
Hand-held camerawork from cinematographer Daniel Miller captures Orna’s everyday existence, as she moves from home to workplace, with the slight unsteadiness adding the perfect amount of instability to her story. Additionally, the naturally gorgeous photography captures the beauty of the Jerusalem locale without going overboard with ‘picture-postcard’ imagery.
Subtle scripting from Aviad, Sharon Azulay Eyal and Michal Vinik deftly traverses the terrain with great sensitivity and aplomb. It’s a confident script that even grants the viewer a sense of shared triumph in its credible payoff. Though at times uncomfortable to watch, Working Woman is a film with immense rewards.