Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 17, 2020 9:11 pm 
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Must gay men have babies?

Israeli writer-director Yuval Hadadi's good looking debut feature is very focused on its baby theme, but cagey about quite where it's going with it. Yoav (Oded Leopold), who's 42 and a successful Tel Aviv architect, and seems always out on the road working out on foot or his bike, is celebrating fifteen years with his lawyer lover Dan (Udi Persi), who's four years younger. That means when they got together Yoav was 27 and Dan 23 - which might be in itself reason to want to escape.

Obviously Yoav is starting to nurse a major midlife crisis. He's got the wrinkles; Dan is a baby-faced cutie. But the sticking point is literal babies. Dan's oldest, closest friend the exotic Alma (Ruti Asarsai, whose parents settled in Beersheba from Ethiopia) announces at a flashy opening of her big photographs (including several prominent ones of Yoav's face) that she's four months pregnant. This makes him furious - not just that she didn't tell him, but that she's even thinking of having a baby. Alma is 42 too, and she had to have a baby and it took some doing. To Yoav, he says, a baby is a sand clock. It just makes you feel older.

The theme is driven home further at the celebration for Yoav's and Dan's fifteenth anniversary, when several of their gay male friends - all good looking, all all-over each other, are going to raise babies. Next, Yoav's designs for a new museum get fucked up because they're asking him to add a children's wing to his design at the last minute.

All this sets Yoav into a talespin. He fights with Dan, who hints he might like to have a baby too, and runs to Alma. She sends him back to Dan, but that doesn't work. He starts going walkabout. Yoav's' clearly got problems. He's also got a father dying "in some nursing home" (that's all Dan knows) whom he won't deal with. At this point it becomes clear Yoav can't avoid his past any more and can't deal with Dan either.

Yoav, by the way, is an asshole. No effort is made to make him seem sympathetic. He's a very Israeli kind of macho guy - though in this Tel Aviv bourgeois gay world, the macho-ness takes on a slightly Castro-clone quality, as if trying too hard (all the workouts). It's a measure of relief when in their big argument, Dan at least seems a little teary. But Yoav's asshole-ness is a sign of something, and we're going to find out what it is, and if whatever it is makes us forgive him.

But to tell the truth, all this so far has something strained and emotionless about it, despite Ruti Asarsai's beauty and warmth and Leopold's agonizing, and it's only fifty minutes in, when we get to Dan flirting in a gay bar with a tall young guy with a big grin called Evyatar (Tamir Ginsburg) who cruised him earlier on the street, that things start to lighten up and feel a little more natural at last. Evyatar's great, wise, perceptive, and self-accepting for his years (he's 27) - too perfect, one might say, to be a mere way station. But we must wish nothing but the best for Dan and Yoav.

Much follows, in the period leading up to the resolution of this handsome, grown up, and rather enigmatic film.

We never really find out what was eating Yoav.

15 Years,, in Hebrew, 89 mins., debuted at the Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival in Jun. 2019 as its opening night film, and played in a number of other LGBT festivals, including Chicago's Reeling Film Fest, with theatrical release in Israel in Feb. 2020. Due to the global pandemic it is being released by Breaking Glass Pictures in digital and on-demand Apr. 28, 2020.

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