Alan and Naomi

Brooklyn 1944 – Alan Silverman (Lukas Haas) is a normal 14 year old engrossed in stickball and model airplanes.  He has an awareness of the war that rages an ocean away which is constantly reinforced by anti-semitism in his ethnically mixed neighborhood.  He has no way of knowing that his world is about to be engulfed by consequences of that foreign war.

Alan’s parents, Sol (Michael Gross) and Ruth (Amy Aquino) tell him the story of Naomi Kirschenbaum (Vanessa Zaoui) a young Jewish girl living upstairs.  Her father, a French resistance fighter was brutally murdered before her eyes.  The experience has left her catatonic.  She needs the company of children her own age and this burden has fallen on Alan.

Reluctantly Alan goes to Naomi and he is totally unprepared for that first visit.  She sits upon her bed constantly tearing paper and nothing Alan says elicits a response.  Still, he persists, forsaking his daily stickball game and straining his relationship with his best friend.  After a series of frustrations he succeeds in communication with her through the use of his dummy, Wrangler Jack, and her doll, Yvette.

Gradually, tenderly, Alan eases Naomi into the world.  He takes her to an abandoned airfield where he flies his model planes. In dramatic and emotional fashion she recounts the death of her father and the guilt she has borne with her ever since.  “It wasn’t you fault,” Alan declares to Naomi, “no one is ever going to hurt you again.”

Unfortunately, this tranquility can not last.  The local bully provokes a school yard fight with anti-semitic jibes at Alan and Naomi.  The sight of blows being struck upon Alan triggers memories of her father’s death and Naomi disappears.  A desperate neighborhood searches for the fragile girl only to find her amidst the coal of the furnace room.  Reality has once again given way to complete catatonia.

A distraught Alan visits Naomi at a sanitarium.  He’s angry and questioning: “Why’d this have to happen to her?”  At first he doesn’t seem to have the strength to try again, then he returns to sit next to her.  There must be hope in a world torn by war.

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