Saturday, April 25, 2020

Unhealthy obsession dominates Yuval Hadadi's Israeli mid-life-crisis-themed 15 YEARS

Dani is obsessed with Yoav, his lover of the titular 15 YEARS, and so is Alma, Yoav's best friend since childhood. Yoav is obsessed, too. With himself. And TrustMovies' best guess is that Yuval Hadadi (shown below), the writer/director of this new Israeli film, is also obsessed -- with the middle-aged but extremely hot-looking actor, Oded Leopold, who plays Yoav and who bears a rather striking resemblance in face, body and age,  to the filmmaker himself.

Mr. Leopold, shown below and further below, appears in nearly every scene of this film and is also prominent in every single publicity still I could find for this movie. Thankfully, he's a decent enough actor and is a consistent pleasure to look at, clothed or nude, throughout.

Because of all this, one might be tempted to imagine that 15 Years is possibly auto-biographical, but since I know nothing about Mr. Hadadi, I'll bring the subject up then leave it alone and concentrate on the movie itself.

15 Years is worth seeing for its extremely attractive cast, its look at haut-bourgeois gay life in Tel Aviv, and its often quite beautiful visuals: There's one composition featuring a plate of green apples and bright oranges that you'll want to immediately capture on canvas (its the image seen to the right of the screen through a window, not the later, less interesting image where the plate is centered). The expert, often gorgeous cinematography here is via Yaniv Linton.

The movie's plot, such as it is, concerns the sudden announcement regarding the pregnancy of Alma (Rute Asarsai, below, left) and how this affects the relationship between Dani, who might want a child of his own, and Yoav, who definitely does not. The idea of becoming a parent unleashes all sorts of negativity in Yoav.

Along the way we learn -- via a dying father whom Yoav does not want to visit and a scrapbook/wall of photographs -- about this fellow's problematic childhood. While no details are offered, we are meant to conclude that "family" is not a particularly positive part of Yoav's history. And this is the film's major problem: No details are offered about much of anything.

Late in the game Dani (Udi Persi, below, right) has an angry speech in which he lets Yoav know that their relationship has been mostly bad -- for Dani, at least. But we've seen little of this. Likewise, the bond between Alma and Yoav must be taken on faith. The performance are as good as they can be, given that character-creation does not appear an important part of the filmmaker's plan. The movie simply sets out its characters and situations and then does not go deep enough.

There are a couple of good sex scenes along the way, one of which -- simultaneously hot and creepy -- brings to the fore Yoav's capability for dominance and pain, even as his sex object seem to revel in the possibility of his own demise.

For all of the filmmaker's obsessing over Yoav, this too-loosely-drawn character seems far too narcissistic and egotistical to be worth this much attention (from the other characters or from us viewers) -- despite Mr. Leopold's enormous sexual charisma, which is on view consistently.

The film's most intelligent and upbeat character, a possible love interest for Dani (played with a graceful charm by Tamir Ginsberg), gives the movie a much-needed lift, but then we're back again with Yoav and his dire, dour problems. Sorry, but obsessions -- unless they're handled with the kind of skill Hitchcock could manage -- are more often than not difficult for an audience to fully share.

From Breaking Glass Pictures, in Hebrew with English subtitles and running 89 minutes, 15 Years hits DVD and VOD this coming Tuesday, April 28 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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