Running time 117 minutes
Directed by Eytan Fox
Written by Gal Uchovsky and Eytan Fox
Starring Ohad Knoller, Yousef ‘Joe’ Sweid
Eytan Fox’s The Bubble, from a screenplay by Gal Uchovsky & Mr. Fox, mixes a gay romance with contemporary Israeli-Palestinian tensions in Tel Aviv and the occupied territories, and a literally explosive climax that shatters the frivolous fantasies of peace-seeking young Israelis. I am not sure what the point of the movie is supposed to be, but Mr. Fox, his cast and his collaborators are singularly unconvincing in their abruptly shifting gears between comedy and tragedy.
Curiously, the film begins with a very tense confrontation between Israeli border guards near Tel Aviv and a group of Palestinians with work permits, and a pregnant woman, whom one guard insists on searching for possible explosives. Suddenly, she screams and begins giving birth. An ambulance arrives too late to save the baby. The Palestinians blame the border guards with their angry glances. Yet the whole point of this pregnant-with-meaning sequence is to let one of the reservists, Noam (Ohad Knoller), exchange a significant expression with one of the Palestinians, Ashraf (Yousef “Joe” Sweid).
Back in Tel Aviv, Noam is shown sharing an apartment with Lulu (Daniella Wircer) and Yelli (Alon Freidmann). The three young Israelis are deeply engaged in the peace movement after working hours. Lulu is employed in a bath products boutique, the buoyant Yelli manages a lively café and Noam dreamily works as a music store clerk, and spends his weekends serving in the National Guard at checkpoints.
When Ashraf shows up at one of the parties in the apartment, it is love at second sight for Noam and Ashraf. Since Ashraf is in Tel Aviv illegally, Lulu and Yelli conspire with Noam to give Ashraf an Israeli identity and a job as a waiter in Yelli’s café. Noam and Ashraf then embark on an extended and sexually explicit affair.
Meanwhile Lulu has become involved with a womanizing magazine editor, who betrays her at the first opportunity. But the amount of time spent on the “straight sex” is miniscule compared to the amount spent on the “gay sex,” and no wonder. Both Mr. Fox and his co-scenarist, Mr. Uchovsky, have been active in the gay rights movement in Israel. Mr. Fox’s previous film, Walk on Water (2004), became the most successful Israeli film ever in the international marketplace. It related the story of a Mossad secret service agent who becomes emotionally involved with the gay grandson of an ex-Nazi officer.
Mr. Fox’s film before that, Yossi and Jagger (2002), dealt with a sexual liaison between officers in the Israeli Army. It, too, has been described as “a breakaway international hit,” but I am not sure what the local reactions have been. But for these films to have been made at all suggests that there may be a greater understanding and acceptance of gayness in Israel than there is in the U.S. Still, I speak with the authority of almost complete ignorance on the subject. Certainly, it is not the fault of the actors that I find the contrivances in The Bubble more than a little improbable.