Sometimes film critics nail it so well, all I have to do is direct you to their reviews. Doesn't happen often, but when it does, it makes my life much easier.
So here is A.O. Scott's review of Jellyfish, the very charming, moving Israeli film now playing at the Angelika. I recommend it heartily.
I have two things to add to Scott's perfectly nailed review.
1. It looks as if this movie is not political, and it isn't in the conventional sense. But it does give us an interesting glimpse of life in Israel today. A Filipino maid is living away from her family in order to feed it (just like anywhere else in the world today); a young woman barely scrapes by while her mother makes pleas on TV to help the poor. There is a deep disconnection and lack of empathy between generations. It seems to me that this is not the equitable Israel that everyone imagined as they danced the hora in 1948. Not everything is and always has to be about terrorists and Palestinians, but this doesn't mean it's not political. As in the movie The Band's Visit, the filmmakers somehow ground their films in reality, but their surreal or whimsical quality is what gives them air. Reality is so relentlessly heavy in Israel, it is not surprising that its young artists may want to temper it with lightness, with some form of escape. However, what makes these films transcend is precisely that they are rooted in the real. Fortunately, yet because of harsh circumstances, Israelis are constitutionally incapable of being too cute. This is a very good thing. So don't be fooled by the word "whimsy". This is a movie with very real situations and very real feelings.
The novelist David Grossman has said that he wishes Israel were a more normal country, with the normal problems of a normal country. A movie like Jellyfish shows you he is not alone in his wishing.
2. Nikol Leitman, the little girl that appears in the film, is a find. Had she been an inch less charismatic and beautiful, I think the whimsical part of the movie would have been harder to take and believe. But she is so amazing, every time she is on the screen, you feel the magic.
That the filmmakers knew to choose her is a sure sign of their ample talent.