Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Buried emotions come rising to the surface in Yuval Hadadi’s ’15 Years’

One of the most important things we should be talking about more in the LGBTQ community is the importance of properly addressing our mental health. Many of us conceal our trauma, burying secrets so deep that we become numb to the pain.

But, no mater how much we hide it, the pain never really goes away. We just suppress it until something triggers it again and we have no choice but to deal with it, sometimes risking the loss of those we love and parts of ourselves in the process. This is what happens to Yoav in Israeli writer/director Yuval Hadadi’s honest, emotional and thought-provoking drama, 15 Years

Everything seems perfect in Yoav’s (Oded Leopold) life: He’s a successful 42-year-old architect, he has a partner of 15 years, Dan (Udi Persi), and a best friend, Alma (Ruti Asarsai), who is just as close as a mother or sister. It isn’t until Alma announces her pregnancy that Yoav starts to feel pressured by Dan’s desire to become a parent as well. 

Yoav is haunted by long buried demons, and Dan’s desire to have children coupled with Alma’s pregnancy triggers a downward spiral. Yoav’s tight grasp on his life begins to come apart, leading him to self-destructive behavior that threatens to destroy his life with Dan, unravel his friendship with Alma, and cost him everything. 

It’s obvious from the moment that Yoav and Dan both appear on screen that something is bubbling beneath the surface. When we first meet them, Dan gleefully plays with a baby at the opening reception for Alma’s art exhibit. He invites Yoav over, but he coldly rejects the invitation. Then, unexpectedly, Alma announces to the crowd that she’s pregnant. 

What seems to be such a joyous occasion for everyone is antagonizing for Yoav. He doesn’t want Dan to want children, and he doesn’t want his best friend to be pregnant. But why? Throughout the film we’re given clues to what Yoav may be grappling with, but the movie never seems to explicitly tell us what these things are. 

Instead, we are made to work a little bit to crack the mystery of Yoav’s past, and figure out the things he keeps hidden from those who love him. In this way, we experience things similar to the way they do– the answers are vague, and we don’t quite know what to expect next from Yoav.  

This is a story that is ever present in the gay community; a fear of abandonment sometimes causes many of us to reject intimacy and emotional connection. Our past trauma creates problems in our current relationships, and we sometimes don’t know how to handle it. We’ve seen queer characters on screen go through this type of emotional turmoil, but not like this.

What director Yuval Hadadi does with this story seems even more layered and visceral; the characters are adorned with emotional complexities that go way beyond the surface, and Hadadi does an amazing job with grounding each of these characters in their own separate truths while uniting them in their love and concern for Yoav. 

Oded Leopold and Udi Persi give tremendously multi-layered and emotionally intense performances as Yoav and Dan– a couple of 15 years being forced to re-examine their own changing desires and how they fit into the vision of the relationship and life they’ve built with one another. Udi Persi particularly shines in the second and final acts when his love and loyalty are tested. 

Ruti Asarsai gives a wonderfully devoted and honest performance as Alma; she and Oded Leopold’s chemistry radiates in their scenes. During their first scene together, I almost felt that maybe they were also in a romantic relationship.

I have come to the realization, however, that I only felt this way because of the deep affection they share; we aren’t used to seeing love portrayed this way between two characters who are not sexually or romantically involved, and this was unexpected yet refreshing to see.

15 Years had its world premiere at the 2019 Tel Aviv International Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prizes for Best Narrative Feature and Best Actor (Udi Persi). It also won the Jury Prize for Best Feature Film at Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival

The film will be released on DVD and VOD on April 28. Online platforms include iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, FandangoNOW and Vudu. It will also be available on iNDEMAND, Vubiquity and DirectTV. 

Watch the trailer for 15 Years below!

Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson is an educator, writer and actor currently spending the bulk of his time between New York, New York and London, England. He is an active member of both the bear and leather communities and is a proud member of the MidAtlantic Chapter of ONYX.

Kyle Jackson has 80 posts and counting. See all posts by Kyle Jackson

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