Though an interesting concept for its allowance of demonstrating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of two families, Lorraine Levy's The Other Son (or Le fils de l'autre) finds most of its success as a story of two men figuring out how much of one's identity comes from genetics versus environment. Despite a bit of melodrama stirred up to unnecessarily create more strife from the film's child swap than really makes sense, The Other Son stays on track and gives both boys the room required to think things through and come to terms with their newfound heritages and decide how they're going to affect their lives. Mehdi Dehbi and Jules Sitruk shoulder weight of the film with a lot of support from the couples playing their families (with Emmanuelle Devos doing more than her fair share - if only because most of the story happens on the Israel side of the border). There's a well told drama to be found in here for as long as the film can steer away from overwrought fraternal conflict.
When Joseph's (Sitruk) routine medical check-up to enter the Israeli military turns up the confounding fact that he has a different bloodtype than both his mother (Devos) and father (Pascal Elbe), an ensuing investigation reveals he was switched at birth and is actually the son of Leila (Areen Omari) and Said Al-Bezaaz (Khalifa Natour), and the boy they've raised in his place, Yacine (Dehbi), is the son of Joseph's parents. The stunning revelation leaves both families reeling and the two boys begin spending time with one another learning about the lives they might have had and deciding where it is they think they really belong.
It's all but impossible to say how a family would react to getting news like this, however one performance in The Other Son stands out as overly dramatic for drama's sake, and that comes from Mahmud Shalaby who plays Yacine's older brother who turns on his Palestinian-turned-Israeli brother in a flash that betrays any sense there was about 18 years of brotherhood and shared loss over the death of their youngest brother. The characterization seems to turn on a dime and it comes out of nowhere. It feels exactly like what it is: an empty shot at creating loud and abrasive conflict where the film's better brand of slowly unraveling self-realization works far better. It was an unnecessary addition to the story and it ties up far too quickly which makes it even worse.
Luckily, the bulk of the story has little to do with that manufactured conflict and instead we get to focus on the performances of a far more focused cast and script. The concept might be a bit hokey and heavy-handed in its desire to say "we're not so different, you and I" to the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but there's genuine heart to be found and that makes it well worth watching.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
The extras are fairly basic with a production featurette, some deleted scenes, and (somewhat surprisingly considering the film's mostly serious tone) a blooper reel.
"The Other Son" is on sale March 19, 2013 and is rated PG13. Drama. Directed by Lorraine Levy. Written by Noam Fitoussi, Lorraine Levy. Starring Emmanuelle Devos, Jules Sitruk, Mehdi Dehbi, Mahmud Shalaby, Areen Omari, Pascal Elbe.