WORKING WOMAN is Timely for the Me Too Era

Michal Aviad’s 2018 film targets sexual harassment in the workplace

Israeli director Michal Aviad’s 2018 film Working Woman, now out on DVD from Kino Lorber, provides a look into what many women in the workplace deal with on a daily basis. Orna (Liron Ben Shlush) takes a job with a former military contact because there’s not enough money coming in from her husband Ofer’s new restaurant. New boss Benny (Menashe Noy, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem) hires her for an administrative role at his booming real estate company; as she accompanies him to meetings, she learns more about the business. She becomes confident enough to offer a tip that opens his upcoming project up to a group of wealthy French investors.

Even as she makes such progress at work, Benny’s after-hours calls infringe on dinner with her family. Take-out dinner at the office takes on a menacing tone as Orna’s boss attempts a kiss in the dark. The tight framing of shots by DP Daniel Miller reflect Orna’s limited options. A scene in a closed-in hallway when she comes home frustrated after Benny’s first abuse of power foreshadows a later assault.

Benny assures Orna, “I don’t know what came over me,” and makes false promises that he’ll never take advantage of her again. If you’ve read any of the Moonves or Weinstein coverage, you know how little weight to give such apologies. Orna’s uncertainty and unease with her boss is palpable. Her family’s financial position is precarious enough and her hopes for a higher position in the office are such that she takes Benny at his word (but remains somewhat skeptical).

Aviad illustrates the predatory nature of such male bosses, taking advantage of the women employees who work under them. Noy as Benny is jovial in public and abusive in private. There’s no doubt his character feels he is owed Orna’s compliance. After a drunken attack on a business trip, Orna is allowed little time to process the trauma. She comes up with a method to take control back, in her own way.

The glimpses of harassment and assault in Working Woman are uncomfortable in their familiarity, but Aviad resists sexualizing the interactions between boss and employee. Any misreading of the situation is purely on Benny’s part. He abuses the power he holds in their previously genial office relationship.

There is a parallel to the opening and closing shots — Orna’s hopes have been dimmed, but she refuses to cede control. Her optimistic walk down the street at the start has turned into a determined pace. Working Woman veers away from sensationalism, using a handheld shooting style to provide an intimate look at how this woman’s trust in her world is shaken.

Working Woman is currently available on DVD from Kino Lorber.

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