I can’t say that Antarctica is high on my list of places to visit. Cold and characterized by vast distances between people, the continent seems a lonely place. The new Israeli film Antarctica, opening today in Los Angeles, isn’t set there but certainly lives up to its namesake thematically.
Written and directed by Yair Hochner (Good Boys), Antarctica struck me as an GLBT take on the US film Crash transposed to Tel Aviv. Like that Oscar winner, seemingly random characters end up being interrelated and impact one another’s lives in unexpected ways. Pay close attention to the multiple sex partners of former dancer Boaz (the very sexy Ofer Regirer) during the film's attention-grabbing opening minutes. They all re-appear during the course of the film.
The central storyline involves Omer (the too cute Tomer Ilan), a mild-mannered gay librarian looking for Mr. Right. On the eve of his 30th birthday and after a string of disappointing online hook-ups, he meets by chance (?) a journalist who is researching Omer’s favorite topic: UFOs.
Throw in Omer’s lesbian sister, his overbearing mother (played, inexplicably, by a male actor in drag, à la Divine or John Travolta in Hairspray), a hot young professional dancer, a support group of people who believe they were abducted by aliens, and prophecies of an impending extra-terrestrial event and you have the remainder of Antarctica’s plot.
Aside from Omer, it’s hard to care for the film’s characters. Despite the performers’ best efforts to make them sympathetic, most come across as cold, self-obsessed and habitually making poor choices with their relationships. The more they have sex with each other, the more distanced they seem to become.
It would seem Hochner’s title is metaphorical, as he is likening the relational landscape of modern Tel Aviv to the frigid wasteland that is Antarctica. Despite the considerable sex in his film, very little warmth is generated. In the end, one emerging romance gives viewers some hope. For much of Antarctica, though, you may feel the need for a sweater.
Watch the trailer here.
UPDATE: Antarctica is now available on DVD from Amazon.com.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.