Old Amos tells the story of his mother Fania (Natalie Portman), her upbringing in Rovno, Poland, in a well-off family, of the pogroms against the Jewish people that spread all over Europe with the rise of the Nazis which made her leave Rovno towards Jerusalem with her mother and three sisters. Old Amos reminisces about the stories Fania used to concoct for him while still a boy, and finally he wonders if it were the violence of Israel's first years as a nation, poverty, bouts of melancholy, and pain that broke his mother's spirit and drove her to an early end.
Natalie Portman directed, wrote the screenplay, and starred as leading lady in this adaptation of Amos Oz' bestselling autobiography A Tale of Love and Darkness. While Portman's performance is good, it is a little too subdued for my taste—certainly not on the same level as in Black Swan and The Other Woman (Love and Other Impossible Pursuits). It suits the story, but I wish she would have explored her role more, or that the screenplay would have revealed what ailed her. I feel that without the explanation of Amos at the end I would not have been able to figure out what caused her melancholy.
The narrative was linear for the most part, but the stories Fania told her young son came visually alive as well. I did like the narration style, and enjoyed Old Amos' voice over at the start of the film, but I didn't feel as invested in the characters or their plight as I thought I would be.
"Many things have happened in Jerusalem. The city was destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed, and rebuilt again. Conqueror after conqueror came, ruled for a while, left behind some walls, some towers, some cracks in the stones, and then disappeared, like the morning mist down the hillslopes. Jerusalem is a black widow, who devours her lovers while they are still inside her..."