The premise and the title of “The Wedding Plan” suggest a bubbly rom-com, but this prickly, delicately layered film from Rama Burshtein — an ultra-Orthodox director based in Israel — has the tangled ambiguity of a Talmudic lesson. Like Ms. Burshtein’s “Fill the Void” (2013), the story of a religious woman who must decide whether to marry her dead sister’s husband, “The Wedding Plan” manages to be respectful of traditions while at the same time feeling modern, even progressive.
Like “Fill the Void,” “The Wedding Plan” concerns marriage, something that the 32-year-old Michal (Noa Koler) desperately wants. On the verge of tying the knot, she asks her fiancé why he’s seemed distant. He admits that he doesn’t love her, a confession he had been avoiding.
Taking the engagement’s collapse in stride, Michal tallies the years she’s been dating. Impulsively following through on her original plans, she books a wedding hall for the last night of Hanukkah. That gives her three weeks to find a groom — possibly more of a miracle than the Hanukkah lights.
Like Ms. Burshtein, who also wrote the script, Michal doesn’t fit ultra-Orthodox stereotypes. (She runs a mobile petting zoo, which hardly seems like a typical profession.) In a complicated role, the excellent Ms. Koler exudes a kind of flighty confidence: For all her nuptial-related anxieties, Michal is completely comfortable with who she is.
Certainly, the matchmaking industry doesn’t know what to make of her. Michal is set up with a succession of men, including one who is deaf and another who refuses to look at her. (If he only looks at the woman he marries, he explains, she’ll be the most beautiful woman in the world to him.) For a stretch, Michal’s most likely candidate seems to be the nonreligious pop star (Oz Zehavi) she meets on a pilgrimage in Ukraine. Is he toying with her? Is she toying with him?
But “The Wedding Plan” doesn’t settle, as the Hollywood version of this story might have, for offering a cavalcade of comically wrong men. It holds out a few different prospects for Michal and keeps her (and us) guessing until the end. It’s a comedy in the Shakespearean sense — we know it will end with a wedding, groom or not — but Ms. Burshtein leaves open the possibility that it might be a broken one. The hoped-for marriage isn’t just a test of Michal’s happiness but also of her religiosity: A rabbi warns Michal against “counting on miracles,” and wonders what will happen to her faith if she doesn’t find a husband in time.
Ms. Burshtein asks viewers to take a leap of faith as well with a borderline surreal finale, which finds Michal, woozy in close-ups during a fast, trying to comprehend what’s happening around her. It’s a mystical touch — another tipoff that this ordinary-sounding movie is actually pretty special.