This review is brought to you in partnership with our friends at Breaking Glass Pictures
With his debut feature film 15 Years writer/director Yuval Hadadi brings us a film that explores the boundaries of love and belonging in sea of internal darkness. Exploring how childhood experience can directly affect the emotional security of the individual. While reflecting that this may not appear until later adult life, when a single spark ignites long suppressed destructive thoughts. In turn providing us with an exploration of the darkness that sits in the corner of the mind. Hidden from public view until events dictate its emergence into the light.
Ultimately this creates a complex and often dark story. But one that equally talks too many of the mental health challenges inherent within the LGBTQ community. While equally transcending the boundaries of LGBTQ film, in talking directly to the need for men to resolve emotions rather than burying them.
Yoav and Dan are celebrating their 15th anniversary, their lives and relationship surrounded by close friends, warmth and privilage. From a penthouse city apartment in Tel Aviv, to regular dinner parties and successful individual careers. However when Yoav’s best friend Alma announces she is pregnant, Yoav’s friends and partner initially assume he must be the donor. An assumption that is neither right nor welcomed by Yoav. Whose inbuilt fear and dislike of children, relates back to his own unspecified childhood experiences; his father lying near deaths door without Yoav showing any love nor affection.
However, for Yoav this suppressed pain is also embedded in a fear of age, domestic servitude and a loss of freedom. And as friends swap their own stories of becoming parents, and his own partner Dan expresses a wish to someday have children. Yoav finds his internal demons freed from their mental imprisonment. His control of the world around him slowly spiralling into isolation and internal conflict. While his 15 year relationship with Dan slips from his grasp as he grapples with his own mental health.
Hadadi cleverly dissects many of the inherent conflicts of modern gay life. By exploring a range of social taboos within the films narrative. Ranging from, whether the need for family and children in modern gay relationships has become a route to heterosexual acceptance. To the ‘Peter Pan’ syndrome of the gay male obsession with youth and freedom. All wrapped up in a fascinating exploration of mid life mental health and unresolved trauma. And while 15 Years may not be able to provide answers to all the social discussions it raises. It is equally admirable that it is does not seek to shy away from some of the biggest issues facing gay men.
Tonally, 15 Years dwells within a bath of cool colours, encasing Yoav in both stark whites and blues that reflect his own mindset. The only warmth existing in scenes with Dan during happier times. While empathy for Yoav is kept at a distance, his cold and calculating alpha male approach never straying into any emotional expression beyond anger.
For some viewers this will undoubtedly leave a cold imprint on their feelings for Yoav and the journey he undertakes. But this is not a film where there is any expectation of emotional attachment to the central character. Purposely mirroring the alpha male mindset of Yoav with that of his far more emotionally connected and sensitive partner. In turn challenging the viewers own feelings toward Yoav. While equally reflecting the difference between stifling control and emotional connectivity. And despite a narrative that occasionally lacks a clear direction of travel, 15 years equally carries a commentary that all gay men need to reflect upon.
From the need to reassess the chosen paths we walk as our own lives change over time. To understanding that age and beauty can and should coexist in later gay life. With both messages wrapped in the need for us all to communicate our own emotional needs, no matter how deeply we have locked them away from public view.
Director: Yuval Hadadi