On top of that, the place is kind of a dump. That may be on par for an impoverished film student who needs the money (and talks Michael out of checking into a hotel by telling him that Time Out London has ranked his neighborhood among the world’s sexiest — whatever that means). But to make matters worse, Tomer’s bike is stolen after one night away, a loss of mobility that necessitates his moving right back in, at Michael’s invitation. In exchange, Tomer agrees to act as Michael’s tour guide.
Have I mentioned that Tomer is very, very cute?
And, yes, kind of charming too — except when he invites a guy (Tamir Ginsburg) over, via the Israeli version of Grindr, for a threesome with an unsuspecting Michael. This amenity — apparently an unadvertised perk of Tomer’s Airbnb listing — quickly turns into a twosome when Michael, already in his grandpa pajamas and understandably chagrined, goes to bed. And that’s all by Day Three.
Michael, who’s already dealing with an unspoken trauma involving his husband back home (Peter Spears), is certainly earning the title of his column: “The Intrepid Traveler.”
Directed and co-written by Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox, whose films often deal with gay themes, “Sublet” feels like it’s setting itself up, just a little bit, as a same-sex version of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” And it doesn’t exactly disappoint in that regard, even if its other, less expected themes — fatherhood, both the literal and the figurative kind, and the not-quite insurmountability of the generation gap — are far more interesting than the sexual one.
What’s best about “Sublet” is when it zigs when you expect it to zag. The scene in which Michael shows Tomer how to fold socks while the older man is organizing the young man’s closet — a tender, off-kilter moment that is filled with understated connection — is so much more satisfying than the sexy-but-bittersweet one that follows (which, however unavoidable, feels like a concession).
Hickey, an Emmy nominee (“The Big C”) who won a 2011 Tony for “The Normal Heart” and has a pending nomination for “The Inheritance,” is excellent as a man adrift and seeking to reestablish his moorings to family and a sense of future. Newcomer Nissim, making his feature debut, brings more than a pretty face, adding depth to a role whose contours are a little predictable. The rest of the supporting cast, including Lihi Kornowski as Tomer’s dancer best friend, and Miki Kam as Tomer’s kibbutz-dwelling mother, are fine but incidental. “Sublet” is a two-hander all the way.
For the most part, the film stays off the beaten path. But Fox and his co-writer Itay Segal, who worked together on Fox’s “Yossi,” a sequel to “Yossi & Jagger,” ought to have taken Michael’s advice to heart, and stayed completely away from the conventional, somewhat Hollywood-y neighborhoods. There are many forms of healing, even in the short span of five days. And the quick but deeply meaningful roll in the hay is often the laziest cinematic shorthand for it.
Unrated. At the Avalon. Contains coarse language, sex, nudity and drug use. In English and some Hebrew with subtitles. 89 minutes.