Directed by Eytan Fox.
Starring John Benjamin Hickey, Niv Nissim, Lihi Kornowski, Miki Kam, Peter Spears, Tamir Ginsburg, and Gabriel Omri Loukas.
A New York Times travel writer comes to Tel Aviv after suffering a tragedy. The energy of the city and his relationship with a younger man brings him back to life.
By the time fictional New York Times writer Michael (Emmy and Tony award-nominated John Benjamin Hickey) at the center of co-writer and director Eytan Fox’s (screenwriting alongside Italy Segal) Sublet has finished his five-day work stay in Tel Aviv, he’s done a lot more than a tour around for his latest travelogue writing piece. Right as he gets off the plane, the journalist, while jetlagged, seems to have a weight on his shoulders, crushing him into a defeated and zombie-like state. The heavy feelings don’t dissipate even when he’s out and about exploring some of the sights.
Throughout this brief stay, he is also subletting an apartment from aspiring horror filmmaker Tomer (newcomer Niv Nissim), a much younger man with nothing in common aside from the fact that both are gay. Posters of A Nightmare On Elm Street are plastered over the walls, whereas Michael’s chosen form of entertainment is reading, and he also has written a novel. Beyond the decor itself, it’s evident that Michael is slightly repulsed by the messy state of Tomer’s living quarters (one of a few reasons he almost doesn’t go through with the subletting, contemplating searching for a hotel), in contrast, who is a clean and organized person.
In a story of opposites attracting, on day two of Michael’s visit, Tomer returns to get some of his weed, which prompts them to end up spending the day together checking out different restaurants for breakfast and dinner while casually talking and getting a feel for one another. There is also an incident where Tomer’s bike is stolen, to which Michael wonders why he doesn’t call the police. Tomer responds that the police are racist here, allowing Michael to perceive the brewing article from other angles he wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Additionally, the methods utilized towards exploring Tel Aviv differ from each other, with Michael uncovering spots Tomer never knew existed. In other words, their differences are used to learn from one another.
When Michael is not studying the culture or checking out hotspots, he occasionally takes Skype calls from his husband David (Peter Spears), looking for a surrogate mother. Michael disapproves of this and feels that David is going behind his back, alluding to a tragic incident that occurred the last time they tried to have a child. Nevertheless, it’s clear that this is a mildly strained relationship and that, while Michael cares and loves David, something has taken the wind out of his sails emotionally.
As the days go by with Michael and Tomer continuing to hang out, the differences between them shift from cultural to more personal in dating and relationships. Tomer sees no value in monogamy and is all about hookup culture. He even goes as far as contacting a guy on Grindr to visit for a three-way upon learning that sexual intimacy between Michael and David has stagnated. Naturally, Michael isn’t interested, but the more time he and Tomer spend together suggests that the latter could handle a dynamic that goes beyond physical affection. It’s primarily made clear that Tomer sees something special in Michael; he invites him to meet his mother and for dinner.
Tomer’s friend Daria (Lihi Kornowski) drops by with relationship problems of her own in a sequence that leads to everyone attending a sexually suggestive dance performance she had been practicing with her boyfriend for quite some time. The night of fun is punctuated by some clubbing that Michael dips out on early in the night. Nonetheless, a third wheel offers up more to weigh and balance in the spectrum of dating and what these people are doing with their lives.
Michael and David are just a match for each other as they aren’t; as for all the things the former experiences he doesn’t necessarily understand or agree with, he does find a new zest for life. The performances from the leading men are outstanding, often navigating the story through some of its more forced moments of conflict (there’s so much that Michael and David don’t have in common that it begins to feel repetitive) and amateurish dialogue. Sometimes, Sublet forgets that has such great talent in front of the camera that it tries to makes a misstep here and there (there is a metaphor towards the end with socks that is too cheesy for writing that’s otherwise believable and sincere), trying too hard to be cute or funny. It’s also observant and thoughtful with its complex approach to the status quo of relationships and reenergizing the spirit of a husband and traveler.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com