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Originally published Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 3:02 PM

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'The Other Son': a sensitively handled switched-at-birth tale

A movie review of "The Other Son," a French-Israeli co-production about two couples forced to adjust when it's discovered that their sons were accidentally switched at birth. It turns a comedy cliché into a thoughtful bridging of a cultural divide.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'The Other Son,' with Jules Sitruk, Mehdi Dehbi, Pascal Elbé, Emmanuelle Devos, Khalifa Natour, Areen Omari. Directed by Lorraine Lévy, from a screenplay by Lévy and Nathalie Saugeon. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13 for a scene of violence, brief language and drug use. In English, French, Hebrew and Arabic, with English subtitles. Egyptian.

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It's entirely fitting to see "The Other Son" playing at the Egyptian (the primary home of the Seattle International Film Festival), since it's the kind of film that earns accolades on the festival circuit before getting a regular theatrical release. It's a French/ Israeli co-production that turns a comedy cliché — the "switched at birth" scenario — into a thoughtful bridging of a cultural divide.

Eighteen-year-old aspiring musician Joseph (Jules Sitruk) is an Arab Muslim by blood but was raised in Tel Aviv by Jewish parents Orith (Emmanuelle Devos) and Alon (Pascal Elbé). Yacine Al Bezaas (Mehdi Dehbi), also 18 and Jewish by birth, is a medical student who was raised in a West Bank village by Palestinian parents Said and Leila (Khalifa Natour and Areen Omari).

Having been told by their parents about the switched-at-birth mistake (which occurred during the chaos of a Scud missile attack in Haifa in 1991), the young sons must now confront their true identities despite being raised according to the opposing beliefs of their non-biological parents.

In the capable hands of director Lorraine Lévy and co-writer Nathalie Saugeon, "The Other Son" is a sensitively handled drama in which all parties involved react with various degrees of acceptance. Joseph reaches out to his "new" parents by singing a traditional Muslim hymn (and is told by his rabbi that he is no longer Jewish), while Yacine must cope with the disapproval of his brother Bilal (Mahmood Shalabi), who now sees his younger brother as an enemy Jew.

In many ways, Joseph and Yacine are the most levelheaded in terms of forging ahead with their new lives and parents. This youthful flexibility puts them both on a strong course for the future, and while "The Other Son" regrettably ends like an average TV movie, the drama that precedes it is bold and meaningful, reminding us that our differences needn't define us.

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