Menashe offers a look into the cloistered world of ultra-orthodox Judaism, as the titular widower (Menashe Lustig) struggles to regain custody of his son, who the community’s religious leader, the Ruv, has put in the custody of his wife’s brother and his wife until Menashe gets remarried. Menashe is not quite the put-together hotshot. He dresses sloppily (no hat or coat) and clerks at a local kosher grocery store.
In Menashe, writer-director Joshua Z. Weinstein and co-writers Alex Lipschultz and Musa Syeed have created a man for whom you feel sympathy while ultimately just wishing he would get his act together. When he has his son for the evening, he takes him to a party where Menashe has too much to drink; he then oversleeps, making both him and his son late. Menashe never strays into giant drama, but is an excellent example of small, character-driven melodrama. This well-acted, sharply crafted independent film, mostly conducted in Yiddish, is easy to overlook. Don’t make that mistake.