“America,” the second film from director Ophir Raul Graizer, has a lot to offer.

His previous film, 2017’s “The Caretaker,” won seven Ophir Awards, Israel’s version of the Oscars, including “Best Picture” and “Best Director” for Graizer, and was Israel’s selection for the Academy Awards. But the film, about the affair between Thomas, a German, and an Israeli man named Oren, was produced on a microbudget and became a sleeper hit. “Even today, I still get messages from people all over the world about how it affected them. It blew up and became almost a cult film.”

Graizer said he had a lot of people advising him on the subject matter he was supposed to tackle in his second film. He felt the pressure, he said, but then COVID happened and people had other things to worry about, and he was able to work in peace. “America” is a strikingly moving story about love, loyalty and friendship that makes you think about the fragility of life and the beauty of finding a romantic partner you belong with.

Eli Greenberg (Michael Moshonov) is an Israeli swimming coach living in Chicago. He returns to Israel to deal with the death of his father. There he runs into an old friend and swimming partner, Yotam (Ofri Biterman), and his beautiful Ethiopian fiancée, Iris (Oshrat Ingadashet), a florist. The three begin to spend time together, but Yotam suffers a terrible accident that leaves him in a coma.

Oshrat Ingadashet in “America”

As time passes, an attraction develops between Iris and Eli. Will they give in to their passion?

Ingadashet delivers a compelling performance that is subtle but delivers a punch at just the right moments. It is no surprise that she won the award for “Best Actress” at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

Graizer said he adapted the script because of the actress’s talent.

“We saw about 35 or 40 amazing people for the role,” he said. “It wasn’t originally written as an Ethiopian character; it was an Ashkenazi character. But when I saw her, I just fell in love with her energy, her personality, her connection to the script. We recreated the character, and I think it took the film to another dimension.”

The film becomes more complex as Yotam—who was thought to be in a permanent vegetative state—begins to improve. Graizer builds suspense through a series of plot twists; the characters are deft and use visual metaphors. You learn about the discipline required to understand which flowers go together to make a good bouquet and which will ruin it. Eli must gain the trust of his students; they must know that he won’t let them drown.

Moshonov is excellent as a man haunted by a traumatic incident from his past; he wants to keep that past in the past and build a good life for himself in the present, while working through a moral dilemma. Moshonov balances the complexity of his character exceptionally well, as a man with a ferocity that burns behind an exterior of calm.

Why is the film called “America” when it takes place largely in Israel?

“There is the American Dream, of course,” Graizer said. “But the word alone can represent anyone, anywhere, who dreams of a better life or wants to go to a better place or wants to reinvent themselves in some other way. Of course it’s open to interpretation, but there’s the idea of ​​what we want to have, not just in objects, but in happiness. We can look at a horizon and want to escape a difficulty or want to be in a better place.”

Given the political unrest, both in Israel and America, there may be those who look at the question of loyalty in the film and find political messages in the film, which was completed two years ago. Are those interpretations valid? Graizer declined to comment on politics, but admitted that the film’s main lesson is how things we think are permanent are often temporary.

“Sometimes life hits us when we’re not prepared and everything changes and shifts.”