The Oscar-nominated Israeli drama Footnote has a bit of a tonal problem. Most of the first half is aggressively whimsical, using onscreen titles, animation, split-screens and arch narration to describe the relationship between a father-son pair of Talmudic scholars. Writer-director Joseph Cedar seems to be going for a zippy, satirical take on academic and familial competition, but the cutesy style undermines any clever insights. Then the movie switches gears to become serious and melancholy, while still occasionally slipping back into stylistic overkill.
Although stars Shlomo Bar-Aba and Lior Ashkenazi convey a decent amount of emotional depth within the limited parameters of their characters, the movie feels superficial when it should be affecting. Cedar raises and drops several seemingly important plot points, which would be forgivable if the movie were more successful as a character study. Footnote has moments of humor and moments of pathos, but they often seem to be coming from different movies.