A young person’s sexual and/or emotional awakening is a standard narrative. What makes one stand out from another is not just the specific character detail, but the culture that this young person has grown up in.
The Awakening of Mottie Wolkenbruch (based on the book of the same name by Thomas Meyer)was released on Netflix in 2018. The title character, Mottie Woldenbruch (Joel Basman) is a young man from an Orthodox Jewish family. Having followed the prescribed life path so far, the next step is to get married and have children. While his mother, Judith (Inge Maux) is more than eager to see her son become a husband, Mottie is not so sure. His preference would be to have a say in his future wife. Things become more complicated when he becomes friends with a perceived shiska (a woman who is not Jewish), Laura (Noémie Schmidt). As their relationship grows, Mottie finds himself torn between his mother and Laura.
Warning: The video above is only partially in English. Subtleties may be required.
There are two ways to use cultural or religious stereotypes when developing characters. One way to use them as-is and not give these people room to grow. The second is to use specific traits or personal history as a baseline and use that as an opportunity to expand someone’s full humanity, warts, and all.
Having never read the book, I can only speak of what I saw. To be perfectly frank, after sitting through all of 30 minutes, I had to turn it off. I could have waited until next year to write about it on a Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday post, but I could not wait until 2023. This movie is beyond bad. The book’s author (who is also the screenwriter) doesn’t even try to break away from Jewish stereotypes. The mother is overbearing, Laura is the shiska goddess and Motti has no redeeming value as our protagonist.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely not.
The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch is available for streaming on Netflix.