‘Golda’ // Embankment Films

‘Golda’ was routine.

‘Golda’ proves that facts alone do not make a good drama. Facts can enhance character or provide a basis for a story. But they cannot replace the ideas or emotions that drama needs. A fact tells you something, but a story shows it. 

Director Guy Nattiv (Skin) and writer Nicholas Martin (Florence Foster Jenkins) choose facts over drama in telling the story of Golda Meir. Meir was the president of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. She was also Israel’s first and only female president. She’s a great subject but ultimately suffers from a shallow depiction. 

The story is told from Meir’s point of view. She recalls the nineteen days in 1973  when she waged war and battled cancer. The Yom Kippur War is a topical issue due to recent events in Gaza. Knowing the history of the conflict is crucial to understanding the present. 

The film begins by covering this. Twenty-five years of history is crammed into a 3-minute intro. We then meet a host of characters each with a title card of their name and rank. We learn that the Egyptian and Syrian armies are planning an attack. This is about as tense as the film ever gets. After the Israeli leaders scramble to deal with the situation, the film peters out into scene after scene of routine dialogue. 

The visuals, however, are well-polished. In particular, there is a nightmare scene where the camera moves in and out of mirrors. Unfortunately, the polish is only a reminder of the rusty plot beneath. 

It’s a shame that the style fails the subject. Perhaps the material is better suited to a documentary since there’s not enough nuance here to do the subject justice. 

Because we are constantly told things that should be shown. We are told that there are Egyptians lined up at the border waiting to invade. But we never see them. We are told of the results of decisive battles. But again, we never see them. 

Not only would a documentary be able to show all that, but it could also offer more perspectives on the subject. Besides archival footage of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, there isn’t a single Arab in the film. Why not? 

Not that every film needs to feature every demographic, but in a story like this there are many aspects worth exploring. Contrary points of view only improve a plot, and contradictions make for better characters. 

Despite this Helen Mirren (The Queen) brings her best to the role. She is very convincing. But she is only as good as the part lets her be. Actors can make a role come alive, and even elevate it from what is written. She certainly does. But they can’t create a good role. That’s the writer’s job. 

‘Golda’ has all the ingredients of a strong drama: a controversial subject, a talented lead, and polished imagery. But instead of seeing possibilities the creators look for limitations. The result is a routine affair that only shows that facts alone cannot tell a good story. 

‘Golda’ is coming to cinemas in Australia on 02 May 2024. For more information visit the official website.

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