Hadas Ben Aroya, a young Israeli filmmaker, delves into the lives of Israel’s Generation Z in her unconventional, somewhat sexually explicit movie, All Eyes Off Me, which is now available on VOD and digital platforms.
The Israelis in her film are secular, hedonistic and aficionados of bars and discos. They are the polar opposites of Israelis loyal to the traditional values, norms and attitudes of, say, the far right-wing Religious Zionist Party or Shas Party, which form an integral component of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far right-wing government.
Ben Aroya’s low-budget movie, divided into three parts, takes place in and around Tel Aviv.
In the first segment, Danny (Hadar Katz) wanders into a smoky disco and informs friends she’s pregnant. One of them advises her to get an abortion. Judging by a kiss she plants on the lips of a female friend, Danny could be bisexual.
Tellingly enough, Danny does not bother telling Max (Leib Levin), a casual boyfriend, that she is expecting his child. Max already has left Danny in the dust, having established a new relationship with his current girlfriend, Avishag (Elisheva Weil).
Max and Avishag are at the core of the second segment. After professing his love for her, Max acknowledges he likes certain kinds of men and admits he hit it off with a woman in a casual encounter in the Philippines. Avishag, admiring his honesty, has intercourse with Max. In the glowing aftermath, Avishag advises him how he can further please her erotically in the future.
These scenes, though relatively graphic, are bereft of full frontal nudity. Nonetheless, this is the first Israeli film I have seen that shows so much flesh.
As this episode reaches its denouement, Avishag babysits a dog for Dror (Yoav Hayt), a middle-aged man who needs to visit his mother in hospital. As she waits for him to return, she sits next to an outdoor swimming pool clogged with autumn leaves and listens to music. At night, she goes to bed in Dror’s house.
Max calls her no less than seventeen times, but she never picks up. It appears she has lost interest in him.
In the last segment, Dror finally appears in the early hours of the next morning, when Avishag is sound asleep, with the dog at her side. After she wakes up, she is extremely animated, peppering Dror with a list of personal and perhaps inappropriate questions.
This is where All Eyes Off Me stumbles.
Avishag, in a series of unmistakable gestures, lets Dror know she is romantically attracted to him. Dror is hardly a magnetic or alluring figure. He’s a silent type, overweight, dumpy in appearance, and old enough to be her father. Dror certainly appreciates Avishag’s interest in him, but cannot understand why she is drawn to him.
Neither, I suspect, will most viewers. This dimension of the film, which otherwise brims with promise, is artificial and ultimately meaningless, weakening Ben Aroya’s movie.