A review by Shlomoh Sherman

Director: Boaz Yakin
Writer (WGA):Boaz Yakin
Stars: Renée Zellweger, Christopher Eccleston, Julianna Margulies
Genre: Drama - Romance
Also Known As: A Price Below Rubies (USA) (working title)
MPAA:Rated R for sexuality and brief language.
Runtime: 117 min
Country: UK - USA
Release Date: March 25, 1998 (USA)
Also Known As: A Price Below Rubies
Filming Locations: Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Trivia: Sonia's birthstone is the ruby, this would make her birthdate somewhere in July.
Goofs: Most of the action takes place between Sonya's birthday, which is in July, as evidenced by her birthstone, the ruby), and Yom Kippur, which is in the early fall. However, in all the outdoor scenes, it is clearly winter, as evidenced by the winter coats on all characters and extras.
Tagline:In a world of rules ... one woman is ruled by her passion.
Plot: A young woman is married to a devout Jew and the problems that trouble their marriage.
Production Co: Channel Four Films, GreeneStreet Films, Lawrence Bender Productions

PRICE ABOVE RUBIES is a sad film about sad people in general and one sad woman in particular, a woman in search of herself and of personal salvation from a world in which she is helpless, hopeless, and voiceless.

Renée Zellweger magnificently protrays Sonia Horowitz, the wife of a Chasidic man from one of the Jewish ultra-Orthodox communities of Brooklyn, New York. Horowitz is basically a strong willed woman living in a fundamentalist religious community in which she has no say about how her life is to be lived. In such a community a female is not much more than an appendage of her husband, bearing his children, cooking his meals, and enabling the expression of his religiosity. She lives out her days in modesty and her nights in giving in to the desires of her husband who may or may not be schooled in the art of providing intimate satisfaction to his wife. She cannot make her own decsions regarding the important aspects of family life. She is subject to the will of her husband who daily, in his prayers, thanks God for not having created him a woman.
Sonia has always felt stiffled in this community and after the birth of her youngest son, she reaches a point of emotional critical mass. She tells her husband that she is unsatisfied and unfulfilled in life and she requests that they attend marital counselling. Her husband, Mendel, is not a bad sort but he is circumscribed by his Hasidic upbringing. He agrees to counselling so long as the counsellor is Hasidic. Sadly the therapy does no good for Sonia. The counsellor hints that the reason for the marital problems in her marriage is somehow her fault. Perhaps she has not carried out her relgious duties in a manner satisfactory to Heaven, he suggests. Sonia bristles at this and asks him why he is taking sides in the therapy. When the therapist insists that he is not taking sides, Sonia admonishes him, "Yes you are. You are taking God's side."

Sonia's outrage at her community and her subserviant status in it reaches its limits one night when she is raped by Mendel's brother.

Ultimately Sonia leaves her Brooklyn community and travels across the River to the "nonkosher" island of Manhatan where she meets and becomes the lover of a Puerto Rican jeweler. After several months, Mendel comes to Manhattan to look for her. When they meet, Mendel says he is willing to forgive her if she will only return to Brooklyn and be mother to their children. Sonia refuses, saying that she has traveled too far from their Brooklyn community and the intense ultra-religious way of life that engulfs their marriage. She begs him not to force her to return. She is no longer a proper wife for him or any other religious Jewish man, she says. Mendel does not inquire about what exactly she has done to make her feel that way. He loves her and chooses to give her her freedom. Sonia knows that Mendel will have no choice now but to give her a GET, a Jewish religious divorce. Sonia weeps when she sees that he understands her pain and her desire to forge a new life for herself out in the secular world. One thing she asks, that her children will be allowed to come visit her from time to time. Mendel responds, "How can children be kept away from their mother?"

The film has no real resolution. We are left wondering what will become of Sonia. Will she be able to survive in a world in which she knows no one, has no friends or support group, must find her own way? We can only hope that her inner strength will sustain her and allow her to succeed in her new chosen path.

Renée Zellweger's performance is wonderful. We can only assume that she spent a lot of time in Brooklyn, studying the mannerisms, body language, and voice intonations of the hasidic women of Brooklyn.

PRICE ABOVE RUBIES was not well received by the Jewish community. As I stated in my review of A STRANGER AMONG US, a few Orthodox leaders attempted to suppress its release. This is because it presents a true picture of fundamentalist religious Jewish life while STRANGER gives us a fictional, idealized version of the same life.

Check out my review of A STRANGER AMONG US

 Renée Zellweger ...  Sonia Horowitz
 Christopher Eccleston ...  Sender Horowitz
 Julianna Margulies ...  Rachel
 Allen Payne ...  Ramon Garcia
 Glenn Fitzgerald ...  Mendel Horowitz
 Kim Hunter ...  Rebbitzn
 John Randolph ...  Rebbe Moshe
 Kathleen Chalfant ...  Beggar Woman
 Peter Jacobson ...  Schnuel
 Edie Falco ...  Feiga
 Timothy Jerome ...  Dr. Bauer (as Tim Jerome)
 Phyllis Newman ...  Mrs. Gelbart
 Joyce Reehling ...  Shaindy
 Shelton Dane ...  Yossi
 Jackie Ryan ...  Young Sonia

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