Grief is such a difficult subject to tackle in film. All too often, the drama spills over into melodrama or sentimentality. It’s a fine line to tread and it takes a certain kind of directorial temperament to be successful. A steady hand, an empathetic sensitivity and a willingness to take risks and not just opt for the obvious finale. In his debut film, Israeli director Ofir Raul Graizer manages all of these. The Cakemaker is an assured, touching and gentle slice of filmmaking.
Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) is a master cakemaker who runs a small café in Berlin. When Oren (Roy Miller), an Israeli businessman working for a multinational company, tries his pastries he’s smitten. The pair embark on a long-distanced affair, with Thomas knowing that Oren has a wife and child back in Jerusalem. When Oren stops answering his texts or returning his calls, Thomas is devastated. Eventually, he decides to travel to Israel to discover the truth for himself. There he discovers a grieving widow (Sarah Adler) with whom he forms a tentative bond.
The Cakemaker is a touching, quietly assured and beautifully handled drama about grief, religion and traditional values in modern societies. Both Kalkhof and Adler are superb, and it’s the relationship between them which makes the film so special. Graizer ensures that there’s no eureka moment, allowing their bond to slowly grow in the most unfertile ground. The Cakemaker is a thoughtful and moving film about two people dealing with shared grief.
The Cakemaker screens at London Film Festival on 15 October.