Set in Haifa in the summer of 1968, “The Matchmaker” is a tender story of love, loss and survival in the aftermath of the Second World War. Director Avi Nesher plumbs a fascinating juncture in Israeli history, where an embryonic society still reeling from the memory of trauma is beset by the cultural-sexual upheaval of the ’60s. More than just an exploration of a fledgling country finding its feet, “The Matchmaker” is an enchanting coming-of-age story about the manifold incarnations of friendship and love.
Sixteen-year-old Arik is at loose ends one summer when he gets a job offer from a mysterious old friend of his father’s named Yankele Bride. Bride, a Holocaust survivor, makes his living as a matchmaker, uniting luckless souls. He hires Arik to scout potential clients throughout the bustling port city.
Arik is intrigued by Brides’s line of work. The diverse characters he meets on the job open his eyes to a world of wonder, pain and longing, offering him glimpses into unspeakable darkness and the depths of human love. There is Clara, a beautiful, fragile woman whom Bride loves from afar; Sylvia, a survivor of Josef Mengele’s Nazi experiments who yearns for a husband; and Meir (Dror Kenen from last year’s “Five Hours from Paris”), a librarian, whose search for love leads him to commit an extraordinary act of malice. Even Arik falls in love for the first time, a development that brings surprising consequences.
Based on the novel “When Heroes Fly” by award-winning writer Amir Gutfreund (“Our Holocaust”), “The Matchmaker” interweaves various personal struggles with remarkable emotional energy. These characters are survivors of one of history’s great tragedies; they cling to their secrets and despairs while trying to reconceptualize the value of the present. Each forms a special attachment to the naïve and spirited Arik and this, more than anything, symbolizes their inherent belief in the future. [Synopsis courtesy of Jane Schoettle/Toronto International Film Festival]