Review by Sean Boelman
The feature debut of writer-director Yuval Hadadi, 15 Years is a new drama dealing with LGBT identity in the conservative Israeli community. Thought-provoking and emotional, Hadadi’s film is a humble one, but its lean and simple nature is inarguably a large part of what makes it so effective.
The movie follows a man whose life starts to implode after his best friend becomes pregnant without his knowledge and his long-time boyfriend begins to discuss the prospect of having kids, bringing him to question his own identity and desires. Yes, it’s a melodrama, but it’s told from such a place of sincerity that it never feels maudlin or excessive.
Viewers will undeniably be drawn in by the film’s slow-burn pacing. Even though this is a very small-scale and personal story, it is presented almost as if it’s a thriller. The stakes for the conflict are established early on and the potential consequences of the conflict feel legitimate, allowing this tension to build up and be sustained.
Part of what makes this suspense work so well is that the main character’s arc is so easy to buy into. The protagonist is very dynamic and compelling, the relatability of his emotion being one of the movie’s main focuses. It’s not an easy film to watch — the character is dealing with some very difficult things in his life that tie directly into some important societal issues — but it is sure to be enlightening for anyone who has gone through something similar themselves.
The movie explores the idea of desire in a way that hasn’t been done quite so successfully before. The main emotional conflict in the film involves the character trying to cope with his past that has shaped his own wishes. It’s not particularly new ground, but Hadadi’s perspective on the issue is so fresh that it feels unique and telling.
Oded Leopold gives a commanding performance in his leading role. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of him because his performance is dripping with so much authenticity and passion. He’s charming but not too charismatic and intimidating but not quite scary, hitting that sweet spot of ambiguity that is needed for the movie to work.
Also impressive is Hadadi’s style that he brings to the film, as it allows the viewer to be completely immersed in the conflict. The cinematography is hypnotic, refusing to ease its grip on the viewer. The aggressive but affecting score also goes a long way in building the atmosphere of the movie.
15 Years may seem like an unlikely candidate to be an affecting drama, but interesting execution allows the film to stand out. It’s definitely a refreshing surprise to see an indie as interesting as this.
15 Years hits VOD on April 28.