Hester Street

Drama | English, Yiddish with English subtitles | 90 minutes


Jake, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, has settled  in a tenement in New York. He has a tailoring job, a room to live, and an Americanized girlfriend, Mamie. Things for Jake change drastically when he receives a message that his wife Gitl and son are arriving to America from Eastern Europe. Meeting his family after a long absence, Jake is determined to change Gitl and his son to the American way of life. He demands  Gitl remove her wig, change her clothes, and learn English. More of a problem for Jake is explaining all this to Mamie. Gitl discovers Jake’s affair when Mamie pays a surprise visit. Gitl is shattered and draws comfort from  Bernstein, an intellectual boarder who is poor, studies Torah all day, but is  kind and supportive with Gitl. Mamie, who is financially comfortable, offers Gitl money if she agrees to divorce Jake. Facing an untenable situation with Jake, Gitl agrees. She and Bernstein are now free to be a couple. With the money Gitl received from Mamie, she and Bernstein look forward to opening a small store and pursuing the American dream.   

Carol Kane (Gitl) / Steven Keats (Jake) / Dorrie Kavanagh (Mamie) / Mel Howard (Bernstein)
Why Stream This Film?
Hester Street is a vivid portrait of Eastern European Jewish immigrants struggling to assimilate in America in the late 19th century. The National Film Registry praised it for “its accuracy of detail and sensitivity to the challenges immigrants faced during the acculturation process.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 71%
  • Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Actress (Carol Kane)
  • Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival: Winner, Best Director (Joan Micklin Silver)
  • Writers Guild of America: Nominated,  Best Adapted Comedy
  • The film was deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for the National Film Registry.
I think HESTER STREET just gets itself into the ‘don’t-miss-this-tiny-gem’ category. It is  most notable for the contrasting beauty and performances of Carol Kane and Dorrie Kavanagh.
Kenneth Robinson

The Spectator

The effect of seeing HESTER STREET is that of seeing a familiar play lit up by an intent and flowering mind. Performance doesn’t refer simply to the acting, though the cast is superlative. Carol Kane in the starring role is extraordinary. It refers to the whole framing of the picture by Joan Micklin Silver, its author and director: the rhythms, the acute selection of incident and character. HESTER STREET is an unconditionally happy achievement. 
Richard Eder

The New York Times

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