Over the course of the five days covered in the film, Tomar shows Michael around and while doing so, the two get to know each other. On the surface, they couldn’t possibly be more different. Michael is quiet and retiring, dutifully calls his husband back home every night, and clearly has something weighing on his mind that cannot simply be explained away by the jet lag. Tomar, on the other hand, is a brash hedonist who seems to have nothing on his mind but the pleasures of the moment (at one point cruising online to order up a partner for sex with all the energy of ordering a pizza). He’s also unwilling to consider or contemplate those in the gay movement who came before him, like Michael, and paved the way for his current lifestyle. Over time, a friendship develops, as well as a possible sexual attraction. At first, Michael isn’t certain if Tomar is even gay or not (though the poster for the particular “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequel hanging in the apartment should have been a clue) but it probably will not come as a surprise to most viewers that something does eventually arise, although they may be surprised by the degree that sock puppetry is involved.
The scenes between the two men from different generations looking to find some kind of common ground are easily the most interesting in the film. One of the best moments is when Michael and Tomar discuss their very different attitudes towards AIDS and its enduring legacy—having lived, loved, and lost during that era (even writing his only novel about that period), Michael is dumbfounded with Tomar’s overly complacent attitude and belief that any talk about AIDS is just too depressing. In a later scene, Michael is even more baffled when a dancer friend of Tomar’s comes by and announces that rather than try to stick it out as an artist in Tel Aviv, she is going to relocate to Berlin for an easer go at it. These moments are smart and provocative, and if director/co-writer Eytan Fox had stuck more to them, “Sublet” could have been a really fascinating generational drama.
Instead, the romantic angle slowly takes over in the second half, and that is the part that didn’t work for me for one simple reason—I never for a moment believed in any sort of real attraction between Michael and Tomar. Simple lust, perhaps, but not the kind of powerful mutual attraction that could spring the older man from his existential funk (one that is entirely deserved, once we hear of the sad events still troubling him) and make the younger one more aware that there’s a great big world out there that doesn’t evolve entirely around his selfish needs. Well, not within five days, at least.
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