It is always so exhilarating to watch a powerful tour-de-force performance from a unknown actor that you know will become known as his breakthrough performance as stardom beckons. Such is the case of Israeli Tom Mercier who plays Yoav a conflicted young man who has just run away from Israel to Paris determined to renounce all vestiges of his homeland.
When he is squatting the first night in an empty apartment he wakes up to discover that his backpack and all his clothes have been stolen. Trying to keep warm in the bath is futile and this tis where he is discovered naked and passed out by the neighbours.
Emile (Quentin Dolmaire) and Caroline (Louise Chevillotte) are a wealthy bored young couple who are more than happy to outfit this attractive naked stranger with clothes ,money and a cellphone. Yoav makes tracks to the very shabby small apartment he is going to be crashing at, but he keeps in touch with his two rescuers.
Emile is in the throes of writing a book that he will probably never finish and he is is awe of the wealth of stories that Yoav shares about his life. It is also very clear that he is sexually attracted to the Israeli who seems to encourage him even though we are never ever sure if he also has similar feelings.
It’s rather a bizarre tale, based very loosely on director Nadav Lapid ‘sown story, where Yoav, an ex Israeli Army soldier , gets a job in the Israeli Consulate but refuses to speak Hebrew with anyone, That however doesn’t stop him mixing with people like Yaron (Uri Hayik) who is the exact opposite. Yaron is an intelligence agent convinced that Europe is a hornet’s nest of anti-Semitism, and France its nucleus. He antagonistically confronts everyone with his Israeli-ness, bellowing, “I’m Jewish!” at strangers and aggressively humming the Israeli national anthem in the faces of metro passengers to see if they react negatively.
Determined to adopt Paris as his new home, most of Yoav’s days comprise of him memorising strings of french words from his newly acquired Dictionary that he oddly thinks maybe useful. But then again there is nothing usual about this highly strung man with his obsessive traits such as cooking the same meal every day using the same cheap ingredients.
When his father turns up unannounced to take him back to Israel, Yoav refuses to meet him, yet he will let Caroline seduce him almost with the same lack of enthusiasm.
At the core if the store is Lapid’s unwavering take on the realisation of how tight a grip racism and bigotry have taken hold of a society grappling with both the morality and logistics of immigration that he feel out of hand. He uses Yoav’s Citizenship Class to drum home the inequalities and dangers of unfettered xenophobia and the inbred culture of nationalism.
Throughout this black comedy with Lapid’s script whirling back and force, aided by some very deft camerwork, is Mercier’s electrifying performance which helped secure the Films’ prestigious Golden Bear Award at the Berlinale earlier this year. Mercier will have you riveted to the screen until the final credits role.