The Cakemaker

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Behind the scenes of a Jerusalem café

The Cakemaker, a film by director Ofir Raul Grazier, opens on an ambivalent note. On the one hand – there is an element of Berlin foreignness and on the other, an Israeli protagonist and an innocuous encounter at a patisserie: the smell of coffee and pastry dough, the kneading hand, a Black Forest gateau… but whilst the work is routine, the atmosphere is that of a fateful crossroads. Oren (Roy Miller) is a married Israeli architect and father to a young boy. He meets Thomas (Tim Kalkhof), a single Berliner pastry chef, and the two fall in love; however an unexpected accident puts an abrupt end to their forbidden romance. Oren dies.

Left behind with a gaping hole in his heart, Thomas decides to set off to Israel in search of the life Oren left behind. His widow, Anat (the ever-extraordinary Sarah Adler) is raising their son whilst running a Jerusalem café, all the while trying to come to terms with this new reality. Oren’s religious family (his brother, Motti, played by Zohar Strauss and his mother, Hannah, played by Sandra Sade) meanwhile, are urging her to toe the [traditional] line and obtain a standard orthodox rabbinate kosher certificate for her café.

Then, out of nowhere, comes Thomas who goes for a job at the café – and is hired. And whilst he does not disclose to Anat the truth about his relationship with her late husband, his presence at the café in the meantime becomes increasingly prominent. At the same time, he also starts playing a much greater role in both Anat and her son’s emotional life, and in Oren’s mother’s too. Thomas’s golden touch – with hands so sensitive and attuned to quantities, mixtures, and aromas –pierce right through the screen, whilst at the same time also reaching Anat’s heart. The Jerusalem café is given a major upgrade and in the process, bit by bit, the film’s storyline takes a series of increasingly complex, unlikely turns.

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