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15 Years

Tuesday Oct 15, 2019
'15 Years'
'15 Years'  

When do you give up on someone? Is it when they push you away time and again? Is it when they walk out of your life? Is it when they give up on themselves?

That's the question at the heart of writer-director Yuval Hadadi's drama "15 Years," which derives its title from the length of time that moody Yoav (Oded Leopold) and his life partner Dan (Udi Persi) have been together. It can't have been an easy marriage; as their artist friend Alma (Ruti Asarsai) puts it, Dan has "tamed" the "beast" that is Yoav, and she should know. She and Yoav have been best friends from childhood, and even she calls Yoav a "son of a bitch" right to his face.

But Yoav is also Alma's muse - a fact that leads to the film's opening scenes, which includes Yoav wandering around a gallery glumly, confronted by gigantic portraits of himself. (His rambling meditations on mortality are included as audio tracks for those who care to don headphones and take a listen.) Yoav is, simply put, a downer, and he's also a pain to live with; as he tells Alma himself, "I treat [Dan] like shit." Yoav wonders whether he shouldn't simply show Dan that he loves him by walking out and letting Dan lead a happier life without him.

That's an extension of Yoav's overall personality and obsessions. His mother died when he was young, of colon cancer; his father lies dying even now in a nursing home, a facility that leaves numerous messages for Yoav, who responds, "Okay, so let him die without seeing me." If he's tough on his friends, he's even tougher on his family.

But that's about to change with news of Alma's pregnancy. The very notion of kids gives Yoav the creeps, in part because a child would be, to him, a living clock reminding him of years going by. Dan sees things differently; he'd rather like to become a father, and he thinks Yoav would be better at it than he expects.

But sometimes a person's demons run too deep, and love is not enough to exorcise them. After making ugly remarks to both Dan and Alma, Yoav packs a duffel bag and heads off to live in his father's disused apartment. As the next six months go by, all three wrestle with the implications of Yoav's actions and his inability (or unwillingness) to grapple with his deep-seated insecurities and resentments.

Hadadi builds this film more like a thriller than a romance or drama, with heavy, atmospheric cinematography (the work of Yaniv Linton) and suspenseful music (by Daniel Meir). The trio of leads brings exceptional performances to their roles, each of them reflecting Yoav's pain (and the pain he causes others) in distinct ways.

Will these lost souls find their ways? Hadadi makes us no promises that they will. Sometimes all one can do for another person is simply all that the person in question will let them; sometimes, of course, that's not enough. But if love offers us anything, it's the optimistic belief that hope and care might fill in the gaps and make the difference.

OUTshine Film Festival 2019

This story is part of our special report titled "OUTshine Film Festival 2019." Want to read more? Here's the full list.


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