Tropic Sprockets / Sublet

By Ian Brockway

From director Eytan Fox, (Yossi & Jagger) “Sublet” is a quiet story of two men who find each other by chance. It is subtle and delicately rendered but also possesses a punch. It is one of the most authentic and minutely detailed films of the year so far.

Michael (John Benjamin Hickey) is a New York Times writer on assignment in Tel Aviv. He is set to check out his apartment sublet for four days. To his dismay, Michael realizes that Tomer (Niv Nissim), a film student, has not left the house. Tomer is flustered and apologetic. He mixed up the schedule. Michael gives the young kid the benefit of the doubt and agrees to stick with the apartment. Michael is weary. He is married to the hyper ambitious David (Peter Spears) but things are not going well. Michael is intrigued by Tomer. He is spontaneous, attractive and unflappable. Even though his bike has been stolen, he does not hold grudges for long and he seems untainted by prejudice in such a divisive and polarized area.

As an American tourist, Michael is shy and feels he could use a guide. Tomer consents.

The narrative unfolds with a slowness much like life itself. There is mystery within both characters. Why is Tomer seemingly unbothered by most everything aside from his bike? Why is Michael so insular and reticent despite living a comfortable life in Manhattan? Is Tomer an escort? Can he be trusted? Much is revealed and obscured through gesture and conversation.

Michael is haunted by the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. He looks to Tomer with a mixture of fascination and envy. We are never quite sure whether the two want to be near each other for temporary company or if deep affection develops. Human relationships are ambiguous and mercurial at times and the viewer is not completely sure what is going to occur at any given moment.

At times, the film recalls Death in Venice: the older man worries about his heath watching the youth take a shower by the sea. Then abruptly there is concern on the older man’s pinched face. A baby is falling into the dark blue surf. Thomas Mann has merged into Peter Benchley’s Jaws.

This is a unique, affectionate and somewhat quirky film, given its understated qualities.

“Sublet” is authentic and rare in the best of ways. One really sees Michael and Tomer for who they are: two genuine souls brought together by fate that never seems hokey or melodramatic.

While other directors might go for ‘wild date’ scenarios, Eytan Fox delivers an adventure of intimate friendship, no more, no less and he is to be applauded for crafting such a nuanced film, rich in feeling without judgement.

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