The two actresses play characters whose secret relationship causes ripples in their Orthodox Jewish community

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Intersecting issues of sex and religion are explored in “Disobedience,” a simmering drama that never quite reaches full boil.

Rachel Weisz stars as Ronit, a New York photographer who returns home to London, and the Orthodox Jewish community she left behind years earlier, to attend the funeral of her estranged father. Her reception is not exactly open-armed; her presence clearly makes several of her acquaintances uncomfortable, including her childhood friend, Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), who is studying to be her father’s successor, and Esti (Rachel McAdams), a timid schoolteacher (and now Dovid’s wife) with whom she shares a past.

The nature of that past — a love affair, which is strictly forbidden in the Orthodox community — forms the core of “Disobedience.” Ronit and Esti work to suppress their still-passionate feelings for one another for as long as they can, but their urges take over, and they’re left to battle with and weigh the consequences of their actions.

Director Sebastián Lelio, who co-wrote the script (based on Naomi Alderman’s book) with Rebecca Lenkiewicz, keeps his distance from the characters without imparting his will or passing judgment on them. They’re adults, and they’re left to sift through the quandaries themselves. The muted grays of the film’s color palate express the emotions of the characters, as well as the community in which they live, where “may you live a long life” is a common greeting (and is delivered with minimal affection).

Weisz and McAdams do excellent work, especially McAdams, whose Esti is trained to keep her emotions bottled up inside. The movie does the same thing, always keeping itself in check, although sometimes you just wish it would explode.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Disobedience’

GRADE: B

Rated R for some strong sexuality

Running time: 114 minutes

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