Who's Gonna Love Me Now?

 

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A welcome documentary in which the flaws can easily be ignored.

 

Who's Gonna Love Me Now

  

It could be argued that my rating for this film is overgenerous because I don't regard it as a well-made work. But the fact is that its weaknesses fall away into insignificance because what comes across is so rewarding. Filmed over some time in London and in Israel by the Heymann brothers, Barak and Tomer, this is a revealingly honest portrait of its central figure, Saar Moag, who, now approaching forty, has made his way in London. Saar himself is a hugely engaging figure, a thoughtful man troubled by his relationship with his family which has become distant not just because they have all remained in Israel but on account of their varied but uneasy response to the fact that Saar is gay.

 

Saar is too intelligent not to be aware of his own foolhardy behaviour consequent on a serious three-year relationship having come to an end, behaviour that led to the discovery that he had become HIV positive. Telling his family about his condition had emphasised the tensions between them, one sibling becoming strongly hostile, his father being dismayed at having a son so alien to what he had expected and his mother, despite her maternal concern, struggling to adapt. That all the family were religious may well have added to the sense of conflict given the attitude of the Torah to homosexuality.

 

The Heymann brothers shoot the film in a style more evocative of a fictional drama than of a documentary and one wonders if some scenes were reconstructions set up for the camera. Yet the family are enormously direct in expressing their feelings and we see how over time the attitudes of at least some of them begin to change. It is this degree of insight and the fact that Saar seems so natural in front of the camera that make Who's Gonna Love Me Now? such a very effective piece.

 

Yet as filmmaking this film is weak: there is little sense of just how much time is passing and inserts of singing by the London Gay Men's Chorus to which Saar belongs are dropped in any old how (which is not to say that they are not lively in their own right). Other scenes frequently emerge without adequate introduction. This last infelicity means, for example, that we never know for sure if the friend we see with Saar is or is not the man from whom he contracted HIV, that the Chorus is first seen without any explanation of who they are and that Saar's father is introduced without any indication of who he is so that the scene initially looks to be irrelevant. For that matter (although in some ways this is welcome) Saar's state of health is hardly discussed: a single scene shows him taking pills and there's one reference to pain.  Indeed it's only the fact that he goes on with his life looking to the future (should he return to Israel or not?) that marks him out as a survivor. But if there's plenty to quibble about it scarcely matters because in all that counts this film engages so fully with its audience. 

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Saar Moag, Alon, Elimelekh, Katri, Reut, Tor and The London Gay Men's Chorus.

Dir Barak Heymann, Tomer Heymann and Alexander Bodin Saphir, Pro Barak Heymann, Tomer Heymann and Alexander Bodin Saphir, Screenplay Barak Heymann and Tomer Heymann, Ph Itai Raziel, Ed Itai Ne'eman, Ron Omer and Roy Tornoy, Music Eran Weitz.

 

Breaking Productions/Heymann Brothers Films-Peccadillo Pictures.
89 mins. Israel/UK. 2016. Rel: 7 April 2017. Cert. 15.