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Loving Leah
IMDB Rating: 7.0/10 from votes
Release: 25 January 2009 (USA) /

Loving Leah

Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Pnenah Goldstein,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: When his estranged brother dies suddenly, Jake Lever is confronted with an old Jewish custom. In days past, a man was expected to marry his deceased brother's childless widow, but it is now customary to perform a ceremony releasing the pair from the obligation. During the Halizah ceremony, Jake feels uncomfortable renouncing his brother's memory. Additionally, Leah wishes to escape the confines of her orthodox community and avoid her mother's matchmaking. On the spur of the moment, Leah and Jake decide to enter into a platonic marriage of convenience. Written by L. Hamre

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Critic Reviews

Jake is a Washington, D.C., physician who has been accepted into a fellowship program. He is engaged to Carol, who he met at the hospital when they were having lunch at the same time. Carol is pretty and seems to work at the hospital, but I'm not sure what she does.

Jake, who grew up Jewish but is no longer observant, dreams that he sees his brother Benjamin, a rabbi who he has not kept in touch with, telling him everything is now all right between them. They used to be close, as shown in flashbacks. Jake then finds out Benjamin is deceased.

Jake goes to Brooklyn to attend the funeral. He finds out that he obligated by scripture (Deuteronomy 25:5) to marry Benjamin's widow Leah. Neither Jake nor Leah wants to do this, but a halizah ceremony is required to release Jake from his obligation. The words Jake is forced to say would require him to denounce his brother, which he can't do. So he goes through with a sham marriage and moves Leah into his very masculine Georgetown apartment, giving her the other bedroom. The two rarely see each other.

Still, you can imagine how this makes Carol feel. Meanwhile, there is an additional complication: the mothers of Jake and Leah don't know the marriage is fake. So they have to go through the motions to keep up the charade.

Leah wanted to leave Brooklyn anyway; she wants to go to college and investigates the possibility. Very devout and conservative, she also seeks out a place of worship. The one she finds is very different from the one in Brooklyn; instead of lots of men with black hats and beards, this temple has a female rabbi.

The "marriage" appears unlikely to succeed. But wait: why does this movie have the title that it does? Maybe there is hope after all.

The leading actors in this movie all do a good job. Lauren Ambrose is pleasant enough, and she is attractive but very plain, though she has beautiful hair (it's actually a wig). I especially liked Ricki Lake as the female rabbi who helps Leah find answers in a new community of faith. Susie Essman plays Leah's mother as abrasive (but in New York City, that's actually love) and intolerant (would an on screen Jewish mother be anything else?). Mercedes Ruehl does an especially fine job as Jake's mother.

It is rare to see this much detail about the Jewish faith. Most movies and TV series show Jewish people as non-observant or, where they are faithful, we often don't see the details of what is required of them. The Brooklyn Jews in this movie are the most conservative Jews I have ever seen portrayed. And yet the female rabbi teaches Leah a lot about how all the requirements may not be necessary. Leah and Jake have a lot to teach each other as well.

It was worthy of the name "Hallmark Hall of Fame".

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