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Review: 'Asher Lev' a potent coming-of-age story

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 28, 2012 at 7:23 pm •  Published: November 28, 2012

Mark Nelson is excellent in several roles, first as Asher's good-hearted but stubborn father, Aryeh, who's often away from home opening yeshivas in postwar Russia and Europe. Nelson also creates a lively, wry persona for Jacob Kahn, a renowned Jewish artist who mentors teenage Asher with the blessing of the Rebbe who rules the Levs' Hasidic community. Nelson also enacts the Rebbe, with a weary but compassionate air.

Jenny Bacon appears lit from within as Asher's loving, gentle mother, Rivkeh, and greatly alters her personality to also portray a sophisticated gallery owner and a model. Rivkeh constantly tries to mediate between her son's belief in his gift and her husband's inability to accept that a "Torah Jew" could defy centuries of family tradition and follow the "foolishness" of art.

Prophetically, Kahn warns his young prodigy that, "Every great artist has freed himself from something — his family, his nation, his race... Something. A truly great artist must be tied only to his art." The story of Asher Lev provides a compellingly personal yet universal perspective on the demands of an artistic gift that cannot be denied.