Set in 1959, Justin Schwarz’s film “Me and the Moilsies,” a somewhat dark coming-of-age tale, documents the adolescent struggle with acceptance, loyalty, and sexuality. Sheldon (Gabriel Millman), a young Hasidic boy, is something of a loner. He awkwardly wanders the Jersey Shore boardwalks by himself. He looks shy and seems confused. Somehow, he just doesn’t seem to fit within his own society. He wants to be accepted by the Moilsies, a group of hasidic misfits, whose gang name is derived from the Jewish official who performs circumcisions.
The film itself is absorbed in desaturated blue tones, giving us a cold, melancholy window to the past. The flesh tones of the characters share an odd similarity with the washed-out hues of the beach sands.
Sheldon’s principle conflict is to choose between his heart and his community. A young mute girl named Daisy (Yolanda Pelino) is an outsider to his customs and his religion, yet he feels both a mutual bond and an attraction to her. Unlike the floozies performing foreplay on the beach, Daisy is all alone. She spends her time creating sand sculptures and collecting shells. She accepts Sheldon upon their first encounter because she’s curious about him.
While the film may seem flat and stilted from time to time, Schwarz’s overall direction is well-paced, observant, and detailed. Sheldon’s decision is filled with remorse and regret, as he succumbs to communal acceptance over individual action.