It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Jellyfish" tells the stories of three young women whose lives, for a change, do not interlock so much as co-exist. It never quite explains why these three were chosen and not three others. I found that refreshing, because with some films based on entwined lives, you spend more time untangling the plot than caring about it. Here one character is a waitress for a catering firm, another is a new bride, and the third is a home-care worker for elderly women. To be sure, there is a mystical vision (or memory), but I'm not sure I understand the logic behind it, and I don't think it requires logic. It inexplicably spans a generation but works just as it is.
The film is set in Tel Aviv, but it's not an "Israeli film." That's where it was made, but it's not about anything particularly Israeli. It could take place in countless cities, and it's not "about" anything at all, in the way of a message, a theme or a revelation. What it offers is a portrait of some time in these lives, created with attentive performances and an intriguing way of allowing them to emerge a little at a time.
The film also gives us sharply defined supporting characters. The most enigmatic, sufficient to be the center of a movie of her own, is an angelic little girl who wanders up to Batya (Sarah Adler) at the beach. She has an inner tube around her middle, which she refuses to be parted from. There are no parents in sight. Sarah takes the girl to the police, who aren't much interested. They advise her to care for her over the weekend, while they wait to see if a missing persons report comes in.
That seems a strange decision, but it allows a scene where Batya takes the child to her catering job, and the little girl gets her fired, and in the process, she meets a woman who is a free-lance wedding photographer, and so on. The photographer is fired, too, and the women end up smoking on a loading dock, discussing turns of fate. Batya has problems, and water is one of their common themes: (a) the little girl seemingly emerged from the sea, and (b) the leak in her apartment ceiling has covered the floor with about four inches of water. A tenuous link, but there you have it.