Yuval Hadidi’s Hot Daddy Drama ’15 Years’ Tackles Hot-Button Issues of the Gay Community
Set on the cusp of an anniversary and its immediate aftermath, Yuval Hadadi’s film 15 Years (available now on DVD/VOD) is a Hot Daddy Drama. And, yes, I mean to capitalize those words.
Yoav (Oded Leopold), a successful 42-year-old architect in Tel Aviv, and his younger partner Dan (Udo Persi), have — to the outside eye — the picture-perfect gay life. Yet when Yoav’s best friend Alma (Yuti Asarsai), a single photographer, announces her pregnancy at a gallery opening (featuring many photos of Yoav, who is indeed a very Hot Daddy), he begins to unravel, and the film 15 Years touches, briefly and unsentimentally, on a number of hot button issues for the gay community.
“One of the topics that it deals with,” the director has said, “is the whole issue with children in the gay community. It’s something that the gay community is experiencing within the last ten-to-fifteen years, whereas straight couples have been experiencing that pressure to bring kids forever — you know, you get married and you bring kids — and this is a relatively new conversation within the gay community.”
For Yoav, the idea of having a child doesn’t just disturb him, it sets off a chain reaction of nuclear proportions in his entire life; it’s quickly revealed how he has kept people at bay, or actively pushed them away, for his entire life. He’s the strapping ideal of the strong, silent type that movies have always revered, but beneath the surface he’s haunted. His mother died of colon cancer at a young age; his father is wasting away in a nursing home that Yoav never visits; he’s quietly obsessed by the aging he sees on his face; he’s plagued by dreams of the homeless in Tel Aviv that he encounters during his night jogging (whom he also sees when he’s actually jogging at night).
He’s a man of few words, which is a good thing because most of the time when he speaks, he cuts deeply. His treatment of Alma when he finds out she’s pregnant is both cruel and, on some level, refreshing: there is such pressure within the community to “normalize” that he feels he’s being forced back into a different, equally restrictive closet. During Yoav and Dan’s anniversary dinner, he tells a gay couple that their daughter looks like something out of The Lord of the Rings and accuses Alma of having a baby just to be on trend and, worse still, that she’s using it as inspiration for her next exhibit.
In other words, he’s a dick. Yet Oded Leopold embodies this character with such compassion and detail that we, as well as those around him, give him a wide berth (and forgive him more than once in the film’s short 90-minute running time). He’s manly and stoic — Alma cuts to the heart of his internalized homophobia when she jokes that he loves being mistaken for straight. Yet he’s not emotionless.
You can dismiss the film 15 Years as a mid-life crisis film; it does occasionally skirt the line. Hadadi also has a few directorial flourishes that just don’t land — the most blatant one is the obvious placement of an architectural model that Yoav destroys when he loses a large commission. (You know before the scene starts that the only reason the model is there is to be obliterated.) Yet the three leads are evenly matched. Udo Persi’s Dan isn’t just some long-suffering partner; he’s a socially crusading lawyer with his own interests (gay apps being one of them) and desires. And Alma is no dish rag; her no-bullshit approach to Yoav has the lived-in authenticity of emotionally fraught and lacerating friendships.
Yoav is a paradox that can’t be solved. 15 Years pays him the respect of not trying to do so. His pain may be mysterious to us, but all that matters is that it’s real — it’s vibrant, in fact — to him. And the film reminds us that there is more than one type of closet that cages us in: the social constructs that are fluid and change as we progress as well as the ones that we so painstakingly and lovingly detail for our own enslavement.