Better known by the more properly translated title Live and Become, Va, Vis et Deviens aims to be the be-all, tell-all about its particular subject; that of the subjects of Operation Moses, an extradition effort to relocate Ethiopian Jews to Israel. If this film were made in America, it would probably have been called out for what it really is; Oscar bait to the levels of The English Patient. Seriously, this film ticks off every single checkbox that an American critic could possibly want in a dramatic picture, and then some. The result is a very well made picture, and quite an effective one, but one that you might need to watch with sunglasses on.
It’s at this point that I should go a little more in-depth with the plot, because the film itself assumes you already know most of it and thus it doesn’t really spend any time setting up or explaining some of the idiosyncrasies. The film is a three-fold story of the life of one young boy, who comes to be known under the name Schlomo. His mother, a Christian Ethiopian, sees another mother’s son has passed away, one of the many casualties of the exodus of people to the Operation Moses planes. Because this woman is Jewish, and thus is guaranteed a pass to Israel to start a new life with the other Ethiopian Jews, Schlomo’s mother forces him to go with the woman, pretend to be a Jew, and start a new life with her. unfortunately, she ends up dying soon after arriving in Israel, and Schlomo is then adopted into a new white family, the family we will come to know for the rest of the film, particularly the mother. The film then follows his life through three stages; childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, as he struggles to keep his secret for fear of being ousted from all that he now loves and shipped back to Ethiopia as a branded traitor and exploiter. Phew. That was longer than I normally go, but for this film, it was warranted; you might actually be able to follow the events of the first 30-45 minutes now without feeling like you’re missing half the context. That all being said, I was really left with too little to say about this one. I’d be tempted to copy and paste some of the stuff from my English Patient review and be done with it, just because the films have almost identical aims and intentions, but that wouldn’t be fair. Just know that this is damn near seamless in all the technicals, and tells quite the interesting story, even with its slightly extended running time.
Believe me, as much as I wanted to hate this for the blatant awards grab it so obviously was, I couldn’t; it was well done, well acted, well filmed, and accomplishes its goals with ease. If this type of film; super-thick drama, complete with war, religious, and political undertones, is what you ultimately look for in a film, Live and Become will be a stellar new favorite in your oeuvre. Hell, really the only con I can come up with is the fact that it’s French Oscar bait to a serious level, but for me, that is enough to color my overall opinion of the film. This was good, perhaps even very good, but that therein is the problem; it was just too good to really be taken seriously.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10