Disobedience is a bittersweet exploration of grief, acceptance, faith, and otherness.

When we meet Ronit (Rachel Weisz), she’s making a living as a portrait photographer in New York City. Though she beautifully captures others’ true selves on film, she seemingly hasn’t examined her own life in years.

That all changes when she receives a phone call informing her that her father has died. In a daze, she travels home to north London to face the exceedingly stringent Orthodox Jewish community that shunned her – a community in which her father was the rabbi. She has been gone so long, many don’t know (or refuse to acknowledge) that she exists.

Ronit ends up staying with her old childhood best friends, Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and Esti (Rachel McAdams), who she is shocked to find have married each other. Her surprise, we soon learn, is because the reason Ronit left the community in the first place was due, at least in part, to a romantic relationship with Esti. The trio sharing a living space inevitably means secrets will come to light and true selves will have to be examined.

Director Sebastián Lelio’s adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s book is overall a successful one. It makes your heart ache and yearn right along with the characters, which is a testament to the acting of both Rachels — McAdam’s unsteady British accent aside. Nivola holds his own, too, offering a performance fueled with inner tension equal to the tension between the two women.

The score of the film also deserves a big shout out. Matthew Herbert’s utilization of woodwind instruments, so light and playful, doesn’t seem an obvious choice for such a somber story, but they really capture a certain unfolding curiosity. It feels like the perfect score for removing one’s shoes and tip-toeing secretively into this community, a quiet observer of its tradition and austerity.

The only issue with Disobedience is that other than a couple of fiery scenes that live up to the bold title, much of the power is lost to slow pacing and scenes that don’t feel entirely needed. It feels like Lelio can’t decide whether the film should be the story of Ronit and her father, or the story of Ronit and Esti, and we get a little lost trying to tackle both. Both storylines are compelling, but we’re left wishing we had more scenes between the women. We just want to understand what drew them to each other initially and what pulls them back together after so many years.

Disobedience opens in select theatres, April 27th.