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Stay With Us

By Bradley Gibson | May 9, 2024

French Jewish comedian and filmmaker Gad Elmaleh’s comedy Stay With Us presents a heartfelt, humorous take on the importance of religious tradition in a family context. Elmaleh stars in the film as a somewhat fictionalized version of himself. As the film opens, he has been away in the U.S. for three years, building his career. He returns to France to see his family and friends with a fearful secret: He has come back to convert to Catholicism.  He is loath to tell his parents, but when they find a statue of Mary in his travel bag, the news is out. He must confront the revulsion they express at someone wishing to turn away from their core Judaism to embrace Catholic Christianity.  On the one hand, Elmaleh deals with the shock and dismay of his family. On the other, he has support and guidance through the conversion process from a nun he’s been friends with for years and an assemblage of priests and monks from the church. 

“He has come back to convert to Catholicism.”

His intent to convert becomes a watershed moment, not only in his own life but for those around him. His parents are heartbroken. His sister is outraged. She recounts, correctly, the moment he had an epiphany when they were children. He entered the dim recesses of an open Catholic church and felt the touch of Mother Mary on him when he saw her icon. He has felt she was guiding him and looking after him all this time.  As he navigates his spiritual journey and the minefield of dealing with his family, he must face the pros and cons of the consequences of this change. The question hangs in the air for Elmaleh whether he will convert or not. When his parents learn he has booked a hotel, they ask him to stay in their place. Hence the title Stay With Us, but when they learn of his intentions to leave Judaism behind, the phrase becomes their plea for him not to abandon the generations of Jewish traditions they’ve raised him with. 

He lightens the mood using scenes with his family squabbling cheerfully around the dinner table and with stand-up sets in which he engages a comedy club audience to bounce his feelings. They serve as his therapy sessions.  He meets a young Catholic woman who shows him traditions and home life around that faith. There is another segment played for laughs when Elmaleh spends time with monks who have taken a vow of silence. The brother who welcomes him there seems skeptical and annoyed with this bizarre candidate but takes him in any way. 

Stay With Us (2024)

Directed: Gad Elmaleh

Written: Gad Elmaleh, Benjamin Charbit, Eytan Saada

Starring: Gad Elmaleh, Régine Elmaleh, David Elmaleh, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

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"…the shock of religious conversion in a family context..."

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