High school student Tom (Yoav Keren) is given two weeks to find a new place to live by his father and he falls into a relationship with manipulative older fashion photographer Rami (Gal Amitai). In desperate need of money, and a new home, Tom pursues the relationship while being secretly in love with his best friend Gilad (Mendi Barsheshet), who he performs alongside in drama class. Lacking direction, Tom longs to be with Gilad but hedges his bets with Rami, who takes advantage of him but offers to pay him well.
‘Like Me’ is from Israeli film-maker Eyal Kantor and it’s a coming-of-age film of sorts. When we first meet Tom, he’s climbing out of bed with two men and it’s clear he’s already exploring his sexuality. To the outside world and his friends, Tom pretends to be straight and interested in girls, but in reality he’s fallen hard for his best friend Gilad. With a fractious relationship with his father and struggling to hold down a job delivering pizza, Tom wanders aimlessly through life with no goal in sight.
Kantor does a good job of setting up the relationship between Tom and Rami. As Tom needs cash, and a place to live, he’s initially happy to take Rami’s seemingly generous offer. He completely ignores the fact that Rami is pushing him to agree to nude photographs and exploiting him, and he also misunderstands that by doing what he’s asked he’s giving Rami a hold over him. Tom meanwhile, spends his time hoping that his friendship with Gilad will turn into more, reading into every interaction the pair has. Gilad, by all accounts, seems to be interested in a girl both boys know, but Tom feels there’s something there between them. Is he imagining it?
As the film progresses, Kantor pushes Tom and Gilad’s friendship to the limits, and we also see Tom falling into a dead-end relationship with Rami. Watching how Tom navigates those two things is the crux of the film, and it’s safe to say he’s not especially equipped to deal with either. Wide-eyed and full of naïve youthful optimism, Tom doesn’t really grasp the situations he finds himself in, and he cares little for the consequences they may have.
Yoav Keren gives a strong performance as Tom. He is believable as a naïve young man who is doing what he can to get by in life. Keren brings Tom’s ability to use his sexuality to the fore, and he also forms strong chemistry with both Gal Amitai as Rami and Mendi Barsheshet as Gilad. For their part, Amitai and Barsheshet are impressive too, with Barsheshet in particular giving a surprisingly nuanced performance as Tom’s hard-to-read best friend Gilad.
‘Like Me’ may not reinvent the wheel in terms of its subject matter but it’s a film that’s both entertaining and engaging. Coming-of-age films dominate gay cinema and this film ticks off many of the boxes you’d expect it to. It also deals with the reality of growing up gay and learning to correctly read the situations and signals around you. Tom is someone who is looking for a place to belong and his downfall is that any show of kindness or attention, is enough to make him put his reservations to one side and forge ahead regardless.
Cast: Yoav Keren, Gal Amitai, Mendi Barsheshet, Danny Geva, Amor Hadaria Director: Eyal Kantor Writers: Eyal Kantor & Didi Lubetzky Certificate: 18 Duration: 88 mins Released by: TLA Releasing Release date: 24th October 2022 Buy ‘Like Me’ now