Shem is the flipside of the similarly juvenile My Summer of Love—condescending about sex and ostensibly reverential to faith. This wouldn’t be a controversial stance if it weren’t so schematically staked by filmmaker Caroline Roboh, who launches a cutie-pie played by Ash Newman on a cross-European vacation to find his great grandfather’s grave. The filmmaker has an agenda that becomes obvious around the time a man tells the boy that he is like a modern-day wandering Jew: Odyssean spiritual travel as a mode of sexual sanitization. It’s funny that no review of the film goes without harping on Newman’s good looks; he’s so cute everyone wants him, from London and Paris to Berlin and Sofia—not just the men and women in the film but the critics too. Roboh is after this reaction but assumes everyone in the world gets weak in the knees at the sight of someone so pretty but so obviously full of shit as Daniel, who never tells anyone his real name because he wouldn’t dare such perilous self-exposure. (How’s this for pretense: The title of the film is Hebrew for “name”?) The funny thing about the film is that Daniel is a credible facsimile of a young man who prizes getting off more than he does praying—it’s everyone else’s alternately precious and violent reactions to his sexual agency that strains for logic, like the boy he meets at a club who dresses him up in drag before making out with him, or the man who says “I’m not gay but I like to play” before going all Hostel on the kid’s ass. Even when Daniel puts his hands down his pants during an impromptu, religiously-informed photo shoot, only Roboh’s glib cross-cutting presentation is to blame for the disrespect of the scene. Given the shocks to the system Daniel suffers throughout his sojourn, a reasonable reaction to his grandmother’s last-act bombshell might have been a swift punch to the old woman’s face. He offers sitcom satisfaction instead, further exposing the film as a flip sham.
- HP Releasing
- 93 min
- Caroline Roboh
- Caroline Roboh
- Ash Newman, Cyrielle Clair, Geraldine de Bastion, Perrante Ferranti, Istvan Szabo, Gordana Grubjesic, Hadassah Hungar Diamant, John Gordon, Pavel Rimburg, Caroline Roboh
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