The Cakemaker
R1 - America - Strand Releasing
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (13th June 2019).
The Film

Traveling between Jerusalem and Berlin monthly for a multinational company, Oren (The Fifth Heaven's Roy Miller) happens upon a small bakery and makes friends with quiet young baker Thomas (Casting's Tim Kalkhof). Oren, a stranger in the city, and Thomas, a solitary man raised without parents, form an intimate relationship regardless of Oren being married with a young son. Thomas reconciles himself to having Oren for a few days each month but starts to suspect that he has been blown off when Oren does not make contact with him after more than a month, leaving behind his keys and a gift for his wife. When he shows up at Oren's job and learns that he was killed in Jerusalem in an accident six weeks ago, Thomas impulsively moves to Jerusalem and patronizes the cafe belonging to Oren's widow Anat (Big Bad Wolves' Sarah Adler) under the guise of a student. Anat, still mourning Oren and having difficulties with her son Itai (Tamir Ben Yehuda) who has become withdrawn, strikes up a friendship with Thomas and offers him a job as a dishwasher. When he bakes cookies for Itai's birthday party, he is castigated by Anat's brother-in-law Moti (Eyes Wide Open's Zohar Shtrauss) because they are not kosher; however, Anat likes them and is bristling under the pressure of her in-laws to observe religious traditions. Thomas' cakes and cookies soon become popular sellers (kosher because they are technically cooked by Anat under Thomas' instruction), and Anat finds herself drawn to the younger man but also becoming suspicious about her husband's life in Berlin and his frequent visits to a German bakery.

Potentially controversial with its relationship between a Jewish man and a German one (and a German man and a Jewish woman), along with the potentially negative portrayal of a gay man insinuating himself into the family of his dead lover; The Cakemaker is instead a touching drama about the ways in which people try to both hold on to lost love and move on. Thomas' sexuality is not so much a question of gay or bisexual, ultimately revealing a character with the belief ingrained since childhood to cherish what little one has even if the relationship is not equal. Even as Anat suspects that Thomas is not all he appears and may have betrayed her with her husband, she tries to focus on the newfound joy in her life and the resilience to stand up to various busybodies and to draw her son out of his loneliness with new experiences. The ambiguous ending is not entirely satisfying in so much as it shifts the focus from Thomas to Anat, giving her a sense of closure to the viewer but not any such for Thomas. If one were to reduce the film to being a gay picture, then one can be thankful it is on neither the escapist or fatalistic ends of the genre spectrum.

Video

Strand's high bitrate, dual-layer, progressive DVD probably looks as good as it can in standard definition (although not extravagantly visual, the film's selection as the Israeli pick for the Oscars is probably the reason why Strand also sprung for a Blu-ray edition amidst so many other interesting titles they put out last year).
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Audio

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is restrained and there are English subtitles for the German and Hebrew dialogue as well as full SDH subtitles that include the English dialogue.

Extras

Extras include a music video (3:01) and theatrical trailer (2:00), as well as trailers for other titles.
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Overall

 


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