40-something-year old Hanoch is rather a morose man of few words, He runs a scruffy bike repair store in a small desert town in Israel and wiles most of his day away playing chess on the street with his elderly friend Vogel. When his wife gets pregnant Hanoch tells her he is not ready to be a father so she has an abortion and leaves him.
We next see him far away on the streets of Paris and for some reason unclear to us, he is stalking an elderly gay Police Officer. Inspector Rubin is a specialist in the Missing Persons Bureau and recently had tracked down a famous author who had gone AWOL. When Rubin met him the Writer agreed to sit down and have lunch to see if the Policeman could help him through this dark patch that he was going through, but when he was left alone for a few minutes he took his own life instead.
Now Rubin is both depressed and somewhat disillusioned by this failure and has taken some time off work as he is also constantly fatigued. If that is not enough, he and his partner Paolo must look for a new apartment as their landlord wants them out, and even their old dog is starting to show her age! Rubin is getting to ready to go on a much needed vacation to Italy with Paolo when his Boss asks him to investigate just one more case. A man has been found unconscious on a beach in Bordeaux and now that he has recovered all attempts to identify him have failed and he is refusing to talk. He did however have a press cutting about the famous writer’s suicide in his pockets …. that, and the fact that the Doctor knew he was chess enthusiast (like Rubin) ….. are details which are sufficiently intriguing for Rubin to take the case on much against Paolo’s wishes.
The man turns out to be Hanoch and although Rubin doesn’t recognise him from when he was being stalked, it is obvious that the younger man, although remaining totally mute, knows who Rubin is. The Policeman is familiar with the region as he moved there from Israel with his wife and young son to get his Doctorate at the nearby University some 40 years ago. He had taken a side trip to Torino at that time and fell in love with a man and from that point his life was never ever the same and when his wife went back to Israel, he remained in France.
Once the penny drops, the elderly detective realises that it’s not a coincidence that resulted in this case falling in his lap, but fate. This time he has much more at stake personally to insure that the disturbed ‘missing person’ he has found does not follow the same path as the writer.
This very intriguing and gentle wee story is the directing/writing debut of Israeli cinematographer Yossi Aviram … who amongst other things uses his experience behind the camera to give a great visual look to the sweeping French landscapes. With a very sparse script ……Hanoch in particular has very little to say even when he isn’t playing mute …. Aviram is fortunate enough to been able to cast some immensely talented international actors to make this piece work so well. Craggy faced Niels Arestrup is excellent (as always) as the weary old Detective; Lior Ashkenazi had the perfect hanged-dog expression of the man seeking to see if discovering his past could solve the problems of the present as Hanoch; Guy Marchand was Rubin’s patient elderly lover; and in the cameo role of the writer was veteran French actor Mathieu Amalric.
The fact that the elderly pair were a couple by no means makes this a ‘gay film’ but the way that their relationship is simply accepted without even a hint of a raised eyebrow is an interesting reaffirment of the refreshing way that same-sex duo’s are so often portrayed now.
Despite its low key feel this is a powerful wee story that kept its momentum to its very satisfying ending.