The Human Resources Manager: Bringing Out the Dead 


The Human Resources Manager
Directed by Eran Riklis

The victim of a Jerusalem suicide bombing lies in a morgue for days, identifiable only by an old pay stub. To avoid the PR fiasco of an unclaimed corpse, the company's HR manager agrees to accompany it back to her family.

So begins The Human Resources Manager, Israel's selection for the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar (it wasn't nominated). It's an involving, if not hugely moving, film that never pushes too hard to make a statement about the Israel-Palestinian conflict or the elusive idea of "home" in a globalized world.

The performances are strong, though director Eran Riklis does a disservice by never selecting a consistent tone. Mark Ivanir plays the title character with just the right note of selective detachment and Guri Alfi has an amusing role as a journalist who spends his time scrounging for free food and pretending to be important (turns out some things are universal).

For long stretches the film veers between absurdist comedy, where the trip is marred by endless bureaucracy and the coffin gets lashed to a tank, and heartfelt conversions of the kind these sorts of characters inevitably take. The two tones aren't completely incompatible—the comedy is screwball but never becomes slapstick and the emotional turning points aren't as cloying as they could be—but following a single path would have led to a less diluted and more satisfying end.

It's almost impossible for films set in the region to avoid politics, but Manager does a nice job of dealing with the climate without being overwhelmed by it. Security checkpoints and bombings are an everyday occurrence, but the characters have other things on their minds. And this, the gradual process of tuning into the background noise, and realizing the devastating and far-reaching consequences of such violence, becomes the film's most resonant and poignant theme.

Opens March 4


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