Grade: B

Think of a very good Lifetime telefilm about a grief-stricken family trying to cope with the tragic loss of its husband and father and you’ll have some idea of what “Broken Wings” is like. The distinction is that Nir Bergman’s picture is set in Israel, and is in Hebrew with English subtitles.

The widow, sad-faced Dafna (Orly Zilberschatz-Banai) is a nurse in a Haifa hospital. She’s not yet over the death of her husband as the result of an allergic reaction, but must struggle with a heavy work schedule while attempting to meet the needs of her four children. The oldest, Yair (Nitai Gvirtz) is a depressed, unreliable drop-out who’s taken a demeaning job passing out flyers while dressed in a mouse suit. Daughter Maya (Maya Maron) is an aspiring singer who’s still distraught over the idea that she was responsible for her father’s death and feels overburdened by the demands her mother puts on her. The younger boy, Ido (Daniel Magon), is a surly tyke whose inarticulate anger makes him obsessed with filming himself taking death-threatening risks. He also offhandedly torments his younger sister Bahr (Eliana Magon), who feels neglected by her mother. The only other character of much consequence in what’s essentially an intimate domestic drama is Dr. Valentin Goldman (Vladimir Freedman), a kindly if somewhat klutzy Russian doctor at the hospital who’s only recently emigrated from California, a place which seems to Dafna a sort of promised land.

The focus of the film is on the fissures that afflict the family members as a result of their loss. The devastated Dafna is perpetually exhausted and forced to put more responsibility on Maya, who finds her effort to participate in a pop band impeded by the family demands. Yair makes only a half-hearted attempt to regain admittance to school, frequently spending nights away from home but linking up again with a troubled former girlfriend who’s just returned to town. The younger children, meanwhile, get involved in a tragic accident that adds to the others’ sense of guilt. Whether the family unit can survive at all under the stress is doubtful.

“Broken Wings” obviously has a good deal in common with soap opera and tearjerker, but it’s saved from mawkishness and manipulation by the heartfelt quality of Nir Bergman’s writing and by the strong performances he secures from his ensemble cast, particularly Zilberschatz-Banai as Dafna and Maya Maron as her suffering daughter. The central issue in the film is whether these two characters can pick up the shattered pieces of their former relationship and rebuild their connection, and the actresses manage to generate the requisite poignancy without becoming cloying. The other three youngsters are solid if unexceptional, and Freedman brings a welcome touch of humor and normalcy to the mix. The Haifa setting is another plus, seeming an ordinary locale with just a touch of the exotic about it, and the production details, while hardly elegant, are entirely adequate.

So while this Israeli domestic drama might seem on the surface like a made-for-TV movie, it’s a clear step above that.