×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?’

An empathetic doc about a gay Londoner living with HIV and negotiating a difficult relationship with his family back home in Israel.

With:
(English, Hebrew dialogue)

Blood is thicker than water, but blood is also the problem that flows through the veins of Barak and Tomar Heymann’s sincere, moving documentary that won the Panorama Audience Award in Berlin. Now around 40, Saar Moaz is a genial, charming, gay Israeli who has for years been a central member of the London Gay Men’s Chorus. He is also HIV-positive and experiencing all the challenges not only of his illness but also of his long-term expat status. He has built himself a good and happy life, but it is far away from the family, traditions and home whose tidal pull he has never stopped feeling.

At 21, he was expelled from the kibbutz that is still home to four generations of Moazes, including his six younger siblings, devoutly religious mother and militaristic, patriotic father. For the latter especially, Saar’s sexuality has been difficult to accept; for all the others his disease is the hardest thing to come to terms with. Whether it’s his sister’s fear that he could inadvertently infect one of the children; his mother’s grief at their separation and the likely shortening of his life span; or Saar’s own deeply ingrained shame at the “karma” of having contracted the disease (which happened during a drug-and-sex bender following a failed relationship), his HIV-positive status is a burden three times over: physically, spiritually and psychologically. The surprise of the Heymanns’ documentary is that although the issues it tackles are troublesome and heartsore, the film is anything but morose, as though it emanates from the engaging Saar himself, like a song.

The doc is a little uninspired formally but tells its story with clear-eyed compassion, and what it lacks in elegant compositions it makes up for in the all-access frankness that the filmmakers get from Saar and his far-off family members. It’s the telling details that the camera picks up that give it texture: the kosher pot noodles that are all his mother will eat when she visits London restaurants; the rosary Saar has to use as a prop during singing practice at one point; the gay anthems the choir sings that punctuate the film’s heavier moments with bursts of color and happy noise.

There are certain moments when a clever edit or a visual echo suggests a symbolic parallel between the old life and the new — his somewhat reluctant participation in the Jewish practice of tefillin, in which a leather strap is wound seven times around the left arm, follows close after we’re shown the medical procedures of measuring blood pressure and drawing blood, which also require such binding. In one of the most moving scenes, Saar reacts with horror when he cuts himself while grating potatoes to make latkes with his visiting mother. Yet afterward, when she is crying and embracing him, he sneakily gives the sizzling pancakes a stir to make sure they don’t burn. The contradictions of family, and the complex choreography of love, disappointment, loyalty and betrayal, are felt in almost every interaction Saar has with them.

The Heymanns do not try to make any sweeping political points. Saar’s visit home may partially take place at the war memorial where his father, a proud paratrooper, still guides tours, but the ideals of patriotism and national service here are mostly delivered in the abstract, as are those of Jewish piety and religious observance. That feels appropriate because this is not a film about Judaism, or nationality, or even about sexuality or the burden of living with a stigmatized disease. It’s most overridingly a portrait of Saar and as such has as much joy and friendship in it as it has melancholy or regret.

If you love something, set it free, the old adage goes, and if it comes back to you, you will have it forever. Saar’s story is almost like a two-decade-long Jewish riff on the Amish practice of Rumspringa or the Aboriginal ritual of walkabout, where you go out into the world a while and bring the wisdom and experience you gain there back with you. That makes “Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?” essentially the tale of an extended homecoming, where going home is not a retreat but the bravest and most necessary thing you can do.

Film Review: ‘Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?’

Reviewed at Transilvania International Film Festival, June 7, 2017 (Also in Berlin Film Festival, Panorama section). Running time: 84 MIN.

Production: (Israel-U.K., documentary) A Heymann Brothers Films and Breaking Productions production. (International sales: Autlook Film Sales, Vienna.) Producers: Barak Heymann, Tomer Heymann, Alexander Bodin Saphir. Executive producer: Ashley Luke.

Crew: Directors: Barak Heymann, Tomer Heymann, Alexander Bodin Saphir. Screenplay: Barak Heymann, Tomer Heymann. Camera (color): Itai Raziel. Editors: Ron Omer, Ido Mochrik, Roi Turnoy. Music: Eran Weitz.

With: (English, Hebrew dialogue)

More Film

  • Bob Berney

    Bob Berney to Leave Amazon Studios' Head of Marketing and Distribution Position

    Bob Berney, Amazon Studios’ head of marketing and distribution, is stepping down, Variety has confirmed. Berney was hired by Amazon in 2015 and recently reached the end of his four-year contract. His last day will be Friday. During his time at amazon, the film veteran oversaw a number of successful films including “Manchester by the [...]

  • NEW YORK, NY – JUNE, 24:

    LGBTQ Stars Honored at Variety’s Power of Pride Celebration

    New York City felt the full power of pride on Monday, as Variety celebrated its inaugural issue devoted to the annual recognition of LGBTQ people worldwide. At an intimate gathering at lower east side Manhattan hotel The Orchid, rooftop bar Mr. Purple hosted Variety’s cover stars and luminaries for cocktails and the unveiling of the [...]

  • Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Top Hollywood producer Joel Silver has exited his production company Silver Pictures, Variety has confirmed. “Joel Silver recently indicated that he intends to leave Silver Pictures and go out on his own,” Hal Sadoff, a former ICM Partners agent who joined Silver Pictures several years ago as CEO, said in a statement. “We are working [...]

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on Taylor Swift's 'Calm Down' Backlash

    When Taylor Swift released her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, it seemed like every member of the LGBTQ in Hollywood was included — except for Billy Eichner. “I’m still not gay enough for Taylor Swift — or too gay — I don’t know what it is,” Eichner joked at Variety’s Power of Pride [...]

  • Ewen Bremner as Alan McGee in

    Danny Boyle-Produced ‘Creation Stories’ Adds Jason Isaacs, Steven Berkoff

    Jason Isaacs, Steven Berkoff and a host of other new names have signed on for “Creation Stories,” the film being exec-produced by Danny Boyle about Creation Records co-founder Alan McGee. The producers also unveiled the first shots of Ewen Bremner (“Trainspotting”) as the music mogul. Production is underway on the Irvine Welsh-penned project, with “Lock, [...]

  • 'Annabelle Comes Home' Review: This Grab

    Film Review: 'Annabelle Comes Home'

    In a country that should probably think about renaming itself the American Entertainment State, fan culture now produces an obsessive level of pop scholasticism, one that can parse the rules and details of movies and TV shows as if they were fine points of law. In a review of a horror movie, I once called [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content