Most romantic films about gay men deal with finding one another–hooking up or how an encounter changed a man’s life. It’s rarer to stumble upon a story about the familial domestication of gay men, and Yuval Hadadi’s feature film debut, 15 Years, recognizes that reluctance that some members of that community might have. 15 Years is a thought-provoking study in how some gay men think they should live their lives.
Yoav and Dan (Oded Leopold and Udi Persi) are celebrating a landmark in their relationship and they quite literally have it all. One is a successful architect and the other is a passionate lawyer, and it’s smooth sailing. They have an open marriage (which makes them the envy of other gossipy men in their circle), but they seem like the poster couple of gay men. Yoav is much more stoic and mysterious, but Dan is outgoing and charming.
When one of Yoav’s closest friends, Alma (Ruti Asarsai), announces that she is going to have a baby at her latest art exhibition, Yoav goes into a tailspin. Dan is obviously interested in having a family, but his husband is opening disgusted by it to the point that he ridicules other friends at a dinner party when they start showing off pictures of their children. It’s an unexpected conflict in their seemingly perfect lives.
For a lot of straight couples having a family is inevitable or even assumed, but that type of change is something that is make or break for gay couples. There can be no charming pregnancy accidents that we are so accustomed to in American films or television. Yoav doesn’t have a close relationship with anyone other than Dan (his ailing father keeps trying to contact Yoav throughout the film, but he doesn’t seem to care).
There is an anger brimming on Yoav’s surface every moment he’s on screen–his face stoic and brooding. When the subject is broached, he insults the people who love him the most and calls family life a cliche. Leopold is such a presence on screen. You think you’d want to approach him but you might be paralyzed by your own fear as you get closer to him. Persi’s Dan is so warm in scenes away from Yoav that it makes you think that Dan was the relationship’s sunny life force all along.
Family is usually included in stories about gay men, but 15 Years is something we’ve never seen before. It’s a complex, dark, and ultimately moving tale about how a relationship’s expectations evolve and change.
15 Years is available on demand starting April 28.