The Cakemaker will make you believe that a dead man’s boyfriend can find love again — in the arms of his late lover’s widow.
It’s the oddest love triangle imaginable. The very Jewish Oren (Roy Miller) visits Berlin from Jerusalem and falls into a cozy low-key affair with Thomas (Tim Kalkhof). They shop. They chat about Oren’s life in Israel; they share pillow talk about what Oren does with his wife when the lights go off.
All is well and good until Oren, who has promised to return in a few weeks, suddenly goes silent. Seeking answers, Thomas journeys to Jerusalem incognito, where he takes a job — working in the café run by Oren’s widow, Anat (Sarah Adler).
Much of the film’s story is told in wonderfully blue-collar silence. Thomas, kneading dough and teaching Oren’s young son how to decorate cookies. It’s not an easy transition or one that goes unopposed. Anat’s brother-in-law Moti (Zohar Strauss) doesn’t like the idea of a German — of all people — working in his late brother’s wife’s café, which cannot be called kosher if he so much as touches the oven.
Over time, and largely through pastries like Thomas’ gooey Black Forest gâteau, he begins to heal and Oren’s family begins to warm to him. The question that chases the plot through the movie is a simple one: once Anat falls for the beefy blond baker, how long will it be before she discovers her lover was once her husband’s as well?
The Cakemaker doesn’t rush to provide answers. Rather, it’s a languid meditation on getting through. Oren’s death reverberates until the third reel of the film, when Anat finally chooses to move out of her grief. For Thomas, baking is zen. Even when things are at their worst, he’s still standing — flour on his hands and dough moving through his fingers.
What’s all the more impressive is that this is a feature-length debut for writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer. Many first-timers are tempted to throw in every bell and whistle when they finally get a chance to demonstrate what they can do with 90 minutes and a budget. Graizer keeps his eyes (and ours) on the characters and their world, and the result is a movie of generous humanity.
It’s a quiet film, mostly; one told in subtle expressions and long looks as the characters regard the places and people that make up a life. Some might find the notion of a gay adult man falling in love with a woman farfetched. But there’s an organic progression here that illustrates how Thomas’ original attraction to Anat — that it keeps him connected to Oren through the world he left behind — is supplanted by a genuine affection for the people who reluctantly welcome him. For those “Golden Gays” who have never been intimate with anyone of the opposite sex, it might feel like a stretch. For those who’ve had sex with both, it all makes a good deal more sense.
Last modified: January 22, 2019