(2023, 88 min)
Director: Eyal Kantor
Studio: Breaking Glass Pictures
Language: Hebrew w/subtitles
High school senior Tom wants to be wanted. While waiting to begin his compulsory military service, he earns money delivering pizza and modeling. When he meets an older photographer, the pair begin a complicated relationship. Meanwhile, Tom is still harboring feelings for his straight best friend and dealing with his father, who insists that he find a new place to live. Pulled in different directions, it's not clear who will end up loving Tom the most and earning his affection in return. The feature-length debut of Israeli filmmaker Eyal Kantor, Like Me is a captivating new coming-of-age drama with fresh, sexy young actors, gorgeous visuals and a strong, pulsating soundtrack.
With plenty of youthful energy, this colourful Israeli drama centres on a messy but self-assured teen trying to plot a course in life. Filmmaker Eyal Kantor finds realistic rhythms in the interaction between characters who have quite a lot on their minds. This is an unusually complex approach to the usual coming-of-age narrative, as blurred relationships force these young people to face the realities of who they are.
Always late for work delivering pizza, 18-year-old Tom (Keren) thinks he's all grown up until his father (Geva) gives him two weeks to move out. He loves acting class and posing for his photographer friend Rami (Amitai), who encourages him to go further artistically. Since Tom is concealing his crush on straight best friend Gilad (Barsheshet), he instead falls into a rather strained relationship with the older Rami. But Tom is annoyed that he's merely settling for Rami because he can't have Gilad. Or maybe that door isn't as closed as he thinks it is.
In a photo shoot, Rami encourages the smiley Tom to tap into his hate, leading to a wrenching self-loathing breakdown illustrated with pointed home video clips. These bracing internal glimpses are part of the way Kantor plays with planes of reality, cutting into acting auditions and rehearsals to offer offbeat insight into relationships and situations. Various exercises put Tom and Gilad into close contact physically and emotionally, which offer both parallels and contrasts to their friendship. Although the Dorian Gray scenes feel a bit on-the-nose.
As Tom, Keren has a loose attitude and physicality that are disarmingly attractive, making it clear how he continually talks his way out of trouble. Even as his impulsive decision-making causes problems over and over again. Barsheshet has an easy-going vibe as Gilad, whose main struggle is getting his acting career off the ground. He also has his pick of the girls, and a nasty jealous streak. But he clearly loves Tom as a friend, and maybe more. Meanwhile, Amitai plays Rami sympathetically, aware that his behaviour toward Tom borders on predatory.
As feelings begin to come out into the open, Kantor keeps the film visually striking, using this imagery to explore connections between bodies, minds and hearts. By contrast, the plot feels abrupt and sharply pointed, as the threat of impending military service creates different reactions in the confident Tom and the less assured Gilad. This adds a provocative layer to the story, taking on a macho society in which systemic homophobic deprives young people of their identities.
-- Reviewed by Rich Klein, Shadows On the Wall/Rotten Tomatoes (http://www.rottentomatoes.com)