Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

Sarah Adler and Tim Kalkhof star in 'The Cakemaker'

Sarah Adler and Tim Kalkhof star in “The Cakemaker.”

Israeli-born filmmaker Ofir Raul Graizer makes his feature debut with the moving story of a Berlin pastry chef named Thomas (Tim Kalkhof), who falls in love with a traveling businessman from Israel named Oren (Roy Miller).

The two begin an affair when Oren suddenly ghosts Thomas. The young baker heads to Jerusalem only to discover Oren was tragically killed in an auto accident. Seeking answers, Thomas uses an alias to get a job working in the small café owned by Oren’s recently widowed wife, Anat (Sarah Adler). “The Cakemaker” crosses boundaries while it explores love, loss and religion.

Remember the delights Juliette Binoche whipped up in the small French chocolaterie in 2000’s “Chocolat”? Consider pastry chef Thomas as the male equivalent who specializes in confectionary delights that include cookies and cakes. His small Berlin pastry shop is filled with sweet treats that will leave you drooling like the Black Forest gateau.

Oren, a city engineer from Jerusalem, travels to Berlin once a month on business stopping at the pastry shop to pick up some treats for his wife, Anat, and their young son.

Oren begins to have an affair with Thomas that grows serious over a few months. The lovers only get to see each other once a month and while Thomas wants more from their relationship, Oren is not ready to leave his wife. After Oren fails to make it back to Berlin and calls to his cellphone go unanswered, Thomas heads to Jerusalem to find out why Oren has suddenly cut off all communication. He discovers that Oren has been tragically killed in an auto accident and to uncover details about his lover’s life, Thomas moves to the city and begins to visit the locations frequented by Oren.

The grieving baker begins to patronize the small café owned and managed by Oren’s widow Anat. He is eventually hired as a dishwasher after Anat gets into a bind. One day while she’s out, he whips up some cookies for her 6-year old son’s birthday. This doesn’t sit well with her brother-in-law Motti (Zohar Strauss) who reminds Anat that Thomas must never touch the stove, or the café will lose its kosher certificate. He’s also not happy that Anat hired a gentile to work in the restaurant when he could have found several Jewish workers to fill the opening.

Anat decides to start selling Thomas’ confectionary delights in the café which increases business to the point that it becomes hard to keep up with the demand.

Thomas creates the pastries while Anat handles the oven duties as required under Orthodox rules to remain kosher. Motti begins to accept Thomas and helps him find an apartment as the young German becomes a part of the family.

Ofir Raul Graizer’s debut film operates in a low-key fashion. The melodrama remains subdued, which grounds the film in credibility. “The Cakemaker” fluctuates from a love story to a mystery as the tension mounts regarding Thomas’ secret past.

Barriers are broken as the film explores themes of sexual identity and religion, but as we all know, the first rule of love is there are no rules.

The cast is exceptional. Thirty-year-old German actor Tim Kalkhof makes an impressive debut as the gay pastry chef whose life takes an unexpected turn. Sarah Adler, last seen in the outstanding Israeli film “Foxtrot” delivers a captivating performance that feels natural. Her expressions and actions are at times more powerful than words.

“The Cakemaker” was inspired by writer-director Graizer’s life as a gay man growing up with a religious father and secular mother. The 37-year old filmmaker had a friend who was leading a double life as a heterosexual man with a family who was seeing a gay lover on the side. His friend passed away of cancer, leading Graizer to explore the scenario for his feature debut, a moving film that touches the audience thanks to the delicate performances by Tim Kalkhof and Sarah Adler.

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate.

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