In 1980s New York, 17-year-old David (Samuel H. Levine) is at the beck and call of his Russian Jewish family. However, when his grandmother passes away everything changes. In helping his benign grandfather find sheltered accommodation, the building administrator only agrees to give him shelter provided that both he and David share the apartment. Now free from the watchful gaze of his mother and fuelled by the taboo-breaking books of James Baldwin and the beckoning gay bars of NY’s East Village, David can discover who he is, rather than what his community would have him believe.
...grazes each of its topics with the abrasive glances of David, a put-upon boy who doesn't where to place himself.
From the controversial director of The Bridge, Eric Steel has delivered an affecting, if meandering glimpse in youthful awakening set against multiple levels of shame. From immigration to survivor’s guilt, the holocaust and sexual identity, ‘Minyan’ grazes each of its topics with the abrasive glances of David, a put-upon boy who doesn’t where to place himself.
In amongst the fractured insights of his Torah-quoting Grandfather, David’s suppressed desires force him into a double-life. Where each innocent question or proffered doughnut gnaws away at his real sexual identity, David feels like a boy walking into an x-ray future where everyone else knows the results.
From the excellent harpy, Jewish mother as played by Brooke Bloom, the always magnetic Mark Margolis, the tender Ron Rifkin and the superbly sanguine scene-stealer that is Amir Levy, ‘Minyan’ is a coming of age portrait with plenty of colourful characters. However as David, Samuel H. Levine shares his best moments with Alex Hurt’s Bruno, a disaffected and brutalised gay bartender who is witnessing the beginning of the AIDS avalanche.
Touching, though never lingering on any of its subtexts too long, ‘Minyan’ is a beautifully shot and languid look at the 1980s through a compromised set of eyes. From the scheming antics of New York’s geriatric Jewish community to David’s joyful release in the dark-bricked hedonism of New York’s gay bars (featuring an excellent needle-drop moment with Giant by The The by the way), ‘Minyan’ passes over many opportunities for real, genuine heft. When Eric Steel’s latest could have tellingly closed with all its characters revealed for their own complicit self-interest, it doesn’t.
Undone by its hammer-it-home freeze-frame which the movie closes on, ‘Minyan’ is an affectionately nuanced, if slow-paced drama, that still deserves to be added to your waiting list.