Film

Tel Aviv Bohemia

Waiting for The Bubble to Pop

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The city of Tel Aviv, Noam (Ohad Knoller) tells us, is situated in complete ignorance of its natural surroundings. It was built, perversely, in seclusion from the seaside, with its streets running parallel to the Mediterranean to block the mild breeze. It's also where the Israeli gay community has created a small patch of bohemian paradise for itself. As The Bubble's title suggests, it's a sort of bubble—and like all bubbles, it's only a question of time until the damn thing pops.

Blandly likeable Noam works at a record store (where, in a scene reminiscent of High Fidelity, he tells a couple of teenyboppers to get their Britney Spears fix elsewhere) in between stints of army reserve duty as a medic at a border checkpoint. On one such stint, he encounters Ashraf (Yousef Sweid), a young Palestinian man; after they meet again in Tel Aviv, it's not long until they're fucking on the rooftops.

The Bubble is a familiar portrait of young romantic idealism, filtered through the gay experience and, more interestingly, the religious turmoil of the region. Noam and Ashraf, along with Noam's roommates Lulu and Yelli, revel in their shallow, happy existence: They attend the theater, hang out in cafés, listen to singers in night clubs, design T-shirts, even plot a seaside party with the half-hearted theme "Rave Against the Oppression." Whenever Ashraf mentions politics, the others fiercely shush him; sex and love is at the forefront of everyone's mind. (There's also a scene when Noam talks of his dead mother while tenderly buggering Ashraf for the first time, if you're into that sort of thing.)

Despite the frivolity of its characters, some contrived plot twists (some involving a character not-so-subtly named "Jihad"), and shaky developments late in the film, The Bubble steadily gathers gravity. The film's a collision of Western society and Middle Eastern ideals: Eventually, something has to give, and eventually, people get hurt.

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