BFI Flare 2021 ‘Sublet’ Review: Mellow Tale of Intergenerational Romance

Michael (John Benjamin Hickey) is a travel writer journeying to Tel Aviv for an article. He sublets a small apartment with amateur filmmaker Tomer (Niv Nissim) whom he soon hires as a travel guide. Tensions back home involving a surrogate pregnancy and an increasing fascination with the strange young man, lead Michael to contemplate his reasons for travelling abroad, and the nature of his relationship with his impromptu landlord.

The drama of the film may stem from somewhat familiar places but the film is very well played and written. Hickey and Nissim have excellent chemistry and never feel like caricatures. The tension between them is that of age and culture. Tomer likes to skirt around the things he doesn’t like in life, avoiding relationships like onions and raisins that he diligently scrapes off of his food. Michael on the other hand is more experienced in the disappointments of life and far better able to deal with setbacks and heartache. The two bounce off each other in surprising and exciting ways. Although both men have shared experience of being gay, they have very different attitudes to sex, relationships and monogamy. They’re increasingly frank conversations are very engaging.

The impression given of Tel Aviv is very interesting. It appears as a very westernised urban landscape, with more unique suburbs and surrounding countryside. Tomer tells Michael that the city wants to be western and that identity crisis is evident in the interactions they have with the city. The changing character of the city, including in liberalised attitudes to homosexuality and inter-cultural relationships, creates a very unique impression of the ancient city that may be at odds with earlier doom-laded cinematic representations of Israeli gay relationships. Whether this very mellow story of gay love is a fair representation is disputable, but it’s always pleasant to see such things as given.

Sublet is a charming film of cute interactions and an intimate story of cultural and character difference. It’s a film about experience and youth and how wild souls grow old and seek more. It’s also a vivid impression of modern Tel Aviv and a very human story of desire and yearning. It’s perhaps only revolutionary in how normal the whole thing feels, which is always something to savour in a world where discrimination and judgement is in abundance.

Four Stars


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