Review: With 'Sublet," Eytan Fox Returns to Gay-Friendly Tel Aviv

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday June 11, 2021

'Sublet'  (Source:Greenwich Entertainment)

Eytan Fox, the "father" of Israeli queer cinema that helmed such classic dramas as "Yossi & Jagger" 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 a hilarious TV Series, "The Bar Mitzvah," and now a heart-touching romance called "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 taking this week away from home as an opportunity to escape from dealing with a recent tragedy.

He made an online reservation to sublet a small apartment in what is Tel Aviv's new hot area (according to Time Out) from Tomer, a 25-year-old film student.

However, when Michael arrives at new lodgings he discovers that Tomer (Niv Nissim) has nowhere else to stay, so he suggests that Tomer stay and sleep on the couch in return for him being an unofficial guide around town.

They seem like an odd pair. Tomer is a free spirited, handsome young man with seemingly not a care in the world who is happy to live life day by day and using the Grindr app whenever he needs sex. Michael, on the other hand, has been married to David, his partner in NY, for years, and has settled for the comfortable complacency of a long-term relationship.

The age gap between the two strikes them both initially as an obstacle, but as the days pass and both men open up to each other there is a foundation for what had looked like an unlikely friendship.

Michael finds it very hard to drop his reserve even when Tomer tempts him by inviting over a Grindr hook-up for them to share. Tomer, on the other hand, is vehemently opposed to any sort of relationship commitment, but he starts to understand that Michael's approach to life 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 their attitudes to each other, and, more importantly, to life itself.

Fox's films 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 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, with his movies being a lesson in themselves. He not only continues to do that here, but he also paints a vibrant picture of how welcoming Tel Aviv is.

"Sublet" open today in most major markets

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.