Toronto International Film Festival 2021 Review: Ahed’s Knee

Written by Alexander Reams

86/100

A film that oftentimes wants to forget its heritage. Nadav Lapid’s sophomore effort Ahed’s Knee (also one of the stranger titles of a film in 2021), is possibly the most 2021 a 2021 film can be. Inspired by a story of Lapid trying to decide if the child he welcomed to the world with his girlfriend should be raised Israeli or not.

The film follows a filmmaker who is trying to make a film that condemns the government, while the film is being funded by the government. Am I the only one who sees the irony in that? No? Okay, good. It opens on a casting session, where we also find out why the film is titled its strange name, “Ahed’s Knee” in reference to the title of the film “Y” is making. No name, just a letter. I will admit it was disorienting at first but after 20 minutes I adjusted. While this is the surface level, what lies beneath is even deeper. Lapid is searching for any semblance of hope in his native land in a time of turmoil due to the government influence over the nation, as well as foreign policy, and the ongoing issues with Palestine. Lapid is as much a wanderer as his lead is, walking the earth like “Jules” from Pulp Fiction. These vignettes in the desert continue Lapid’s style of gorgeous cinematography, collaborating again with his Synonyms DP, Shai Goldman. Rarely keeping the camera static, propelling a sense of urgency and chaos, which just so happens to be the mental state of “Y”.

Toronto International Film Festival 2021

Despite all of this, the film falters with a story that does not take the time needed to marinate on its heavy themes, and VERY unique storytelling. You could either blame the writing or directing. This is an issue that unfortunately falls on Lapid either way, as he is commonly his own writer and director. That does however lead to more creative control over what translates from script to screen, something that does help keep the film together. Even still, I found myself confused at multiple points in the film, particularly with one dance sequence that seemingly came out of nowhere. 

A film searching for hope in even the darkest of crevices is something this world needs right now in this season of COVID, political and social unrest, and the feeling of losing freedom. “Y” constantly is fighting something or someone, whether that be the death of his mother, and his denial of that, the continuing issues of casting this character of “Ahed” for his newest film, or the pushback he receives from the Ministry of Culture in Israel. Namely for making a film that condemns the government, under the guise of a warning to other insurgents to not rebel against the totalitarian-esque government.

Ahed’s Knee Trailer

Ahed’s Knee was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.

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