Eytan Fox the ‘father’ of Israeli queer cinema that helmed such classic dramas as ‘Yossi & Jaeger‘ and ‘The Bubble’ seems to be mellowing with age. His last film was a delicious comedy about Eurovision called Cupcakes, which he followed up with an hilarious TV Series The Bar Mitzvah and now he is releasing a heart-touching romance Sublet.
This is Fox’s first film in English and stars John Benjamin Hickey as Michael a 55 year old New York Times travel writer visiting Tel Aviv to research his latest article. He is also taking this week away from home as an opportunity to escape from dealing with a recent tragedy.
He had made a Online reservation to sublet a small apartment in what is Tel Aviv’s new hot area (according to Time Out) from Tomer 25 year old film student. However when Michael arrives at new lodgings he discovers that Tomer (Niv Nissim) has nowhere else to stay, so suggests he stays and sleeps on the couch in return for him being an unofficial guide around town.
They seem like an odd pair. Tomer is a free-spirit handsome young man with seemingly not a care in the world and happy to live life day-by-day and using the Grindr app whenever he needs sex. Michael on the other hand, who has been married to David his partner in NY for years, has settled for the comfortable complacency of a long term relationship.
The age gap between the two strikes them both initially as an obstacle to understanding each other , but as the days past and both men open up more to each other there is a definite foundation for what had looked like an unlikely friendship.
Michael finds it very hard to drop his reserve even when Tomer tempts him with inviting over a Grindr hook-up for them to share. Tomer on the other hand who is vehemently opposed to any sort of relationship commitment starts to understand the wisdom of Michael’s approach to life which may not be so alien to him after all.
By the end of the week when it’s time for Michael’s departure both men have changed more than their attitudes to each other, and more importantly to life itself.
Fox’s films have always have such a positivity about them plus he clearly understands the psyche of gay men so well …… especially the ones that are maturing (like him). Hickey (fresh from his success in ‘The Inheritance’ on Broadway) gives a wonderfully nuanced compelling performance as Michael. The chemistry between him and Nissim, making his feature film debut as Tomer, is pitch perfect giving a real authenticity to the whole story.
We are used to Fox giving us an insider’s discerning view of being gay in Israel which have been a lesson in themselves. Now he not only does he continue to do that but he also paints a vibrant picture of how welcoming Tel Aviv is too.
Clearly Sublet, which is a wonderful addition to Fox’s resume, will deservedly match his other box-office successes, but with its planned premiere at Tribeca stalled (because of you-know-what) we have just to wait to see when it will reach our screens.
Watch this space.