Life & Culture

Golda review: Forget Jewface, Helen Mirren can do no wrong

The biopic feels so completely anchored in Israel's national identity


Cert: 12A | ★★★★✩
Out: Friday

Golda Meir will forever remain synonymous with Israel’s struggle to survive and flourish against all odds in one of the most politically volatile regions in the world.

Depicted by Helen Mirren in Guy Nativ and Nicholas Martin's gripping biopic Golda, the late prime minister is portrayed as a deeply caring yet stern figure who will stop at nothing to protect her people against aggression. 

The film is set in the 19 days of the Yom Kippur War. Faced with the possibility of Israel's complete destruction at the hands of its Arab neighbours, Meir has to navigate an impossible situation.

Incensed by a sceptical cabinet that has lost faith in her and handling a complex relationship with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (played by Jewish American actor Liev Schreiber), Meir must harness the strength of her conviction when the lives of millions of people hang in the balance during the tense 19 days of the war.

There has been much debate about Mirren’s controversial “Jewface” casting as Meir - a question that is both valid and important - but it would also be criminal not to say how absolutely brilliant she is. Mirren embodies Meir in the most incredible fashion, as a woman driven by her love for Israel and its people. 

There is much more to Golda than just its casting. It feels so completely anchored in Israel's national identity that it would be a crime to dismiss the whole production over this choice. It is also hard to see who else could have done a better job than Mirren. 

The spectre of the Holocaust looms constantly over each decision taken by its main protagonists and we witness Moshe Dayan crumble under the weight of responsibility and the mere idea of losing the war. It’s clear that a crisis in Israel is unlike other international conflicts.

The film features a stunning performance by Israeli superstar Lior Ashkenazi as Lt. Gen. David "Dado" Elazar while Rami Heuberger does a terrific job as a deeply troubled Moshe Dayan.

Nativ achieves the right balance between the historical and the individual by presenting Meir as not only fallible, but also deeply human. As for Mirren, she simply can do no wrong.

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