“For everything in life there is a replacement. …but not for first love.”
It’s not every day that one stumbles upon a refreshingly funny and poignant film like Viviane Andereggen’s film Simon Says Goodbye To His Foreskin (Original title: Simon sagt ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ zu seiner Vorhaut). Nor is it common to have a movie with a story in which one’s foreskin (to be precise — the process of its removal also known as circumcision) is such a pivotal plot element. Intriguingly enough, a few days after the trailer of the 2015 German film boosted my expectations, I stumbled upon a series of messages on Twitter that were anti-circumcision, while others advocated the procedure. That made me realize its become a big issue and made me even more anxious to watch the film itself.
When I did, it blew me away …
Love isn’t a fair game.
Twelve-year-old Simon Grünberg (Maximilian Ehrenreich) is facing a real dilemma. His Bar Mitzvah (a Jewish Coming-of-Age ceremony) is fast approaching. To obey the religious law and commandments, he is expected to be circumcised before thirteen, which Simon has not been. To make things even more complicated, he lives alternately with his overly religious Jewish father (Florian Setter), who is keen on strictly following the Jewish law, and his mother (Lavinia Wilson), a free-spirited author of erotic literature who won’t have her son undergo a potentially dangerous operation for the sake of compliance with religious statutes.
Simon’s parents already live separately, and still, when the subject of circumcision is introduced, they get into heated arguments. It becomes so insane that, at one point, the poor pre-teen interrupts them with:
“I can decide for myself. It’s my penis.”
But to make sure their son makes the right choice, each parent employs a different strategy — ranging from calm yet insistent talks — to bringing Simon to a support group session with the peculiar title “victims of genital mutilation.” To complicate things even further, Simon falls in love – for the very first time — with his new Rabbi, a beautiful woman called Rebecca (Catherine De Léan).
My exposure to the Jewish culture is somewhat limited; a great pal on Twitter, a former classmate and the music of The Yeshiva Boys Choir constitutes all of my knowledge about being Jewish, outside of knowledge gathered from books and movies. In a way, Simon Says Goodbye To His Foreskin was a real eye-opener, and I’m positive one can learn a lot from it while, at the same time, being wholesomely entertained.
I can say quite a few good things about the film, starting with editing (flashback and cut scenes are present in abundance), which introduces a whole new level of dynamic to the story, making it both engaging and funky. Simon Says Goodbye To His Foreskin is a movie that will bring a guaranteed smile to your face. No, that’s stating it too mildly. The happenings in this film are so funny you will laugh your hearts out.
The score is suitable while not imposing. But what impressed me most was the incredible acting performance of the young Maximilian Ehrenreich in the role of Simon. While the entire cast performed well, Maximilian’s expressions, ease and sincerity resulted in a poignant portrayal of a confused youngster. As much of the story is told from the viewpoint of Simon, its young protagonist, one comes to appreciate the talent of an actor who makes associating with and caring about the hero a real easy task.
Favourite scene: the recitation of a love poem in Hebrew.
An undisputed Coming-of-Age movie, Simon Says Goodbye To His Foreskin, has a plot featuring a lot of motifs common in other films belonging to the genre: first love, a dysfunctional family, boastful friends, confusion, self-discovery and a desire to belong. The young protagonist struggles to make sense of it all and make things right. Yet, for all that, the story remains devoid of clichés.
I find this movie ingenious in so many ways: from its original narrative, how it addresses the tribulations of Coming-of-Age without pretence, the incredible cast, the superb directing, and precise editing. It’s engaging, inspiring, and so much more. I loved this film and so will you.