What happened after Ennis Del Mar fondled Jack Twist’s shirt? That’s what The Cakemaker sets out to answer.
Well, not really… or, ya know, at all. The Cakemaker — a contemporary film set in Jerusalem (and briefly Berlin) — is in no way a sequel to Brokeback Mountain. But the premise seems inextricably linked, a sort of “what if” scenario or complicated gender roles and guilt.
Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) is a German baker who meets Oren (Roy Miller), an Israeli business, and falls in love. While back home for work, Oren is killed in a car accident. The loss is hard for Thomas, whose lack of closure leads him to take a wild step: He moves to Jerusalem and applies for a job in the cafe run by Oren’s widow Anat (Sarah Adler). Anat has no idea her husband was secretly gay; Thomas never mentions that he knew the man. But they build a bond — initially as employer-worker, but eventually as friends. All the while, Thomas continues to “see” Oren, to wear his clothes, to smell his towels, to fantasize about him while Anat languishes in her own grief.
The set-up feels gimmicky (or maybe just “literary”) but the film’s writer-director, Ofir Raul Graizer, manages to squeeze a lot of genuine humanity out of it. Thomas is an outsider in the world — a German in Israel, not Jewish (but working in a kosher restaurant), gay (but deeply in the closet) — but as we find out, Anat has her hidden burdens, too. Graizer combines elements of melodrama with the evocative use of food as a metaphor for love and understanding (Toast, Babette’s Feast, The Hundred Foot Journey), combined with the unusual bond held between people who shouldn’t be predisposed toward friendship (think 21 Grams). It’s a story about loss and holding on that aches, especially through Kalkhof’s performance. He is slightly doughy himself, playing the emotions close until they come out and break your heart.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
Opens Friday at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station.