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First Look Review - 15 YEARS

15 years review
The news of a friend's pregnancy leads a fortysomething man into a mid-life crisis.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Yuval Hadadi

Starring: Oded Leopold, Udi Persi, Ruth Asarsai, Dan Mor

15 years poster

Set within the gay mecca of modern Tel Aviv (surely one of the best looking and most exciting of the world’s gay scenes), Yuval Hadadi’s 15 Years establishes the smooth contours and stylish angles of its flamboyant context with immediacy. Our tragic hero, Yoavi (Oded Leopold - like an even hunkier Yanis Varoufakis), plagued by recurring nightmares where he is chased by faceless assailants in the middle of the night, is central to his social group of beautiful people: mainly young gay men and a few other cool, artsy professionals. His best friend is Alma (Ruti Asarsai - in a film already chock full of The Blessed, honestly one of the most pulchritudinous women I’ve ever seen), a recognised artist whose most recent opening is central to the scene’s calendar. Anyone who is anyone is there, including Yoavi’s pretty younger fella Dan (Udi Persi), various twinks and a gaggle of older queens, who are identifiable by their shaved heads and barbed whispers (enviously gossiping about Yoavi and Dan’s open relationship). Seizing the moment, Alma takes the opportunity to announce to the captive all and sundry that she is pregnant…

15 years review

Yikes! At least for Yoavi, that is, who is a 42 year old gay man taken aback by the news. In Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy there is some shit about 42 being the answer to the universe, but for Yoavi the understandings that this age (where one cannot rationalise that you’re only just 40: at forty two you are inescapably IN your forties) has brought are tough. 40 for heterosexual people is bittersweet enough, but in gay years you are virtually pensionable: a difficult truth cannily alluded to by the aunties at the gallery earlier, who, at just a little bit older than Yoavi, are reduced to a sideline, bitchy status. Any gay scene - the visible, demonstrative arenas where men go to find companionship, sex, fun with other fellas - is a young man’s world, and Yoavi is rapidly approaching elder spokesman status. Following Alma’s deliberately dramatic declaration, old man Yoavi goes a bit quiet. We cut to later, where he is checking his hairline in the mirror. His boyfriend comes up behind him, holds him tightly and jokingly calls him ‘Daddy’ - read the room, Dan!

15 years review

Homosexual life has a dissimilar temporality to straight orthodoxy, with its abundance of children and its open, heteronormative ethos. Within family units (which is possible for gay men, I know, but is clearly much more difficult: no gay chap ever got pregnant by accident, for one thing), life is neatly and comfortably divided into chapters: before children and after children. In terms of representation, too, middle aged gay men are all but invisible; whereas in cinema older men dominate the action films which man-boys adore, and IRL seemingly have no shame in their various midlife crises of affairs and flash cars. Coming at this point so near his cultural sell-by date, Alma’s announcement destabilises Yoavi. And if we’re being honest, this sort of declaration from a friend is often a bit of a jolt, whoever we are. Firstly, because it involves enforced change, but also as such milestones entail the incontestable truth that life is moving on.

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It’s tough for anyone, but within mainstream gay culture, with its superficial emphasis on youth and vanity, there is especial pertinence. With no family and perceived irrelevance, being an older gay often evokes loneliness and a heightened awareness of mortality. 15 Years explores this phenomenon with no sentimentality, however. In fact, the film is often unsympathetic to Yoavi: for instance, it doesn’t shy away from the often dismissive (read: bitter) way that gay men talk about straight people’s kids. There is also some unpleasant, rapey sex with a guy Yoavi picks up in the bar during his downward spiral. Unlike his lovely boyfriend, it’s not as if Yoavi even wants a child, not really. What he wants is for things to never change; for that hairline to never slip back, the muscles to never sag and the various cocks to remain stiff and eager. No dice, Yoavi.

15 years review

For its uncomfortable honesty and lack of self-pity, 15 Years is one of my favourite recent films: a raw portrayal of a highly specific, niche experience which is nevertheless human and open hearted enough for anyone to relate to. Of course, and this is hardly surprising, it made me cry silly tears. Not because of daft, self-obsessed Yoavi and his tantrums and symbolic night terrors, but due to the hopeful suggestion that, ultimately, out of all we forge from our various interactions and social experience, true friendship is what finally endures. Sexuality may be a capital with limited currency, but 15 Years reminds us that friendships are our true nest egg.

15 Years is on US DVD/VOD April 28th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




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