AJFF What to Watch: Films About Twenty and Thirty-Somethings


Heartbreak, family crises, and fighting off the supernatural are all challenges for the characters in these films about twenty and thirty-somethings. All are films that have formerly been featured at AJFF's annual festival. Film titles are linked with information on where to watch.

Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong
Two attractive young strangers forge a magnetic if uncertain connection in this charming fish-out-of-water romance with stunning visuals and sparkling banter featured at the 2016 AJFF. A chance encounter on Hong Kong's lively nighttime streets brings together Josh (Bryan Greenberg), a handsome expatriate investment banker, and Ruby (Jamie Chung), a Chinese-American toy designer. Both are American, but ironically Ruby is the tourist who is lost, while New York native Josh is the Cantonese-speaking local who guides her. Strolling the pulsing port metropolis, the pair's playful flirtation leads to shared dreams and personal complications. Just as an awkward twist might end their brief but alluring bond, fate intervenes. Real life couple Greenberg and Chung bring natural chemistry and authenticity to the film's witty, wistful dialogue. Hong Kong itself is the other shining costar, with cinematographer Josh Silfen capturing the postcard wonder of neon landscapes and exotic culture. 

The Boy Downstairs
The captivating Zosia Mamet stars as a conflicted millennial who revisits a failed romance when she unknowingly moves into her ex-boyfriend’s Brooklyn brownstone, in this film featured at the 2018 AJFF. Returning to New York after an extended stint in London, artistically unfulfilled writer Diana (Mamet) moves into the perfect apartment while earning her keep by working at a bridal shop. Advising her are her free-spirited widowed landlady Amy, and kooky best friend Gabby. Diana thinks she has made a new start, until realizing her downstairs neighbor is her teddy bear-like old flame, the vulnerable and aggrieved Ben (Matthew Shear), whose heart she broke. Like a true New Yorker, she keeps the apartment, despite the awkward arrangement. As the estranged couple attempts to navigate cordial not-so-cohabitation and their knotty feelings, first-time writer-director Sophie Brooks flashes back to the early bloom of their courtship, the question of what went wrong hanging over every scene. This quirky and easygoing millennial love story features a stellar cast, led by Mamet and Shear, and supported by indie stalwart Deirdre O’Connell, as well as newcomers Sarah Ramos and Diana Irvine.

Crossing Delancy
Oscar nominees Amy Irving and Peter Riegert deliver charming onscreen chemistry and comic sparks as an Upper West Side career woman and her smitten Lower East Side suitor in this sweet-tempered 1988 romantic comedy. Single and self-reliant, thirty-something Izzy Grossman (Irving) works at an upscale bookstore, longing to be part of Manhattan’s intellectual literary scene. Though she has her eye on a handsome but egocentric European novelist (Jeroen Krabbé), her wisecracking grandmother (legendary Yiddish theater star Reizl Bozyk) decides Izzy will find true happiness only if she marries a nice Jewish man. Enlisting the help of a matchmaker (Sylvia Miles), Izzy’s fretful bubbie plots to fix her up with Sam (Riegert), an unassuming pickle merchant and true mensch. In a soul-searching dilemma that pits tradition versus modernity, Izzy must decide between values and ideals that are worlds apart. Featured at the 2013 AJFF for its 25th Anniversary..

In Between
Three independent young Palestinian gal pals choose a life of freedom in the vibrant heart of Israel while straining under societal expectations, in this taboo-breaking dramedy featured at the 2017 AJFF. Fighting for the rights to live on their own terms, with very singular personalities, the women share a Tel Aviv apartment away from their home villages. Ultra-chic criminal lawyer Laila (Mouna Hawa) and lesbian disc jockey Salma (Sana Jammelieh) spend their time hanging out in the city's underground bars. Their bohemian, sexually-active lifestyle stands in sharp contrast to the decidedly more religious and conservative outlook of Nour (Shaden Kanboura), the third roommate and a university student. Struggling to be true to themselves while finding the right romantic partners, the developing sisterhood negotiates being Arab-Israeli in a predominantly Jewish society. Putting a rarely depicted spin on the genre tropes of Sex and the City, writer-director Maysaloun Hamoud's remarkable feature debut is a story of friendship, feminine power, and the toll of patriarchal societies. 

Young American tourists visiting Israel are trapped at the center of a biblical apocalypse in this supernatural thriller that maximizes the Old City's rich atmosphere for nightmarish hyper-visceral effect. Sarah (Danielle Jadelyn) and best friend Rachel (Yael Grobglas) embark on a trip to Tel Aviv for sightseeing and fun in the sun. On the way over, their parents change when a handsome antropology student (Yon Tumarkin) charms them into going to Jerusalem. There, the trio hooks up with an affable Arab local and a pair of Israeli soldiers. Their vacation is cut short as mystical warnings manifest as terrifying real. Mass panic ensues when demonic winged creatures are unleashed from the gates of hell, sending Sarah and company into an underground labyrinth in search of safety, while above, Jerusalem's religious leaders race to combat the spending infection. Told entirely from the perspective of a character wearing next-generation digital glasses, filmmakers Doron and Yoav Paz use this first-person camera trick to heighten the confusion and terror, while Jerusalem's narrow alleyways and eerie primitivism serve as the perfect backdrop for this cataclysmic vortex of unholy terror. Featured at the 2016 AJFF.

The Kind Words
Three Jerusalem siblings take a life-changing trip to uncover the truth of their percentage in this Israeli box office hit from writer-director Shemi Zarhin. Embittered, spiky-tempered restaurateur Dorona (Rotem Zissman-Cohen) and her two very dissimilar brothers–the older an unsettled Orthodox father Netanel (Roy Assaf), and the younger a bisexual bar owner Shai (Assaf Ben-Shimon)–come together following the death of their mother (Levana Finkelstein) who had concealed an illness. The offspring receive a newbombshell when the lear the man who raised them (Sasson Gabay) isn't their biological father. This seismic shock sets them on a quest across France to unravel their origins, rooted in their mother's native Algiers. As they piece together the inscrutable secrets of their past, Dorona attempts to reconcile her strained relationship with her long-suffering husband Ricki (Tsahi Halevi), while her brothers grapple with issues of familial, religious and ethnic identity. Featured at the 2016 AJFF.

Wedding Doll
Sterling performances highlight the sensitive and heartbreaking story of a mentally disabled but strong-willed young Israeli woman who struggles for independence. The radiant Moran Rosenblatt won the Israeli Academy Award for her portrayal of an impossible dreamer who lives with her loving but overprotective mother in a Negev desert town. Socially alienated by a childhood brain injury, Hagit finds escape in designing bridal gowns and dolls out of leftover materials from the toilet paper factory where she works. All too aware of life's cruel disappointments, her divorcée mother Sarah (Assi Levy) worries that her daughter cannot separate her romantic fantasies from real life. These aching emotional dynamics culminate in the film's final act, as the factory's closure threatens Hagit's inflated dreams of marrying the boss' handsome son (Roy Assaf). Featured at the 2016 AJFF.