WARNING: Do not go see this movie if full frontal male nudity offends you, as that’s the opening scene, and the first five minutes of this movie! The gay innuendos are heavy throughout, yet….well, you’ll have to watch it and see for yourself as to how this one plays out.

Y oav, (Tom Mercier), a young Israeli man, has just moved to Paris with great expectations that France will save him from what he sees as the madness of his country. Things don’t get off to a great start as he discovers that the flat he’s supposed to stay in is unfurnished and completely empty, and, while taking a bath there, has his belongings stolen. Not deterred easily and desperate to erase his origins, he refuses to speak Hebrew, relying on a French dictionary as his constant companion, and to communicate with the various people he encounters. Based on the real life experiences of writer-director Nadav Lapid, SYNONYMS is a tragicomic puzzle about cultural identities and the challenges of putting down roots in a new place. Newcomer Tom Mercier gives a hypnotic performance as the deeply alienated Yoav whose attempts to find himself awaken past demons while opening up an existential abyss.

In this unpredictable, emotional new film from Nadav Lapid (The Kindergarten Teacher), Israeli ex-soldier Yoav (Tom Mercier) moves to Paris hoping to escape his national identity, but struggles to assimilate fully into French society.

With three feature films and a handful of short- and medium-length works to his name, Nadav Lapid has already established himself as one of the most exciting young filmmakers in international cinema. Recently featured in a 2018 retrospective at TIFF Cinematheque, Lapid returns to Toronto with his latest film, Synonyms, which was awarded the prestigious Golden Bear at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival.

Loosely based on Lapid’s own experiences, the film follows young Israeli ex-soldier Yoav (played by newcomer Tom Mercier, in an incredible performance), who moves to Paris hoping to escape his national identity. After his first night, Yoav wakes up naked in an empty apartment with all of his belongings gone, and is soon taken in by a neighbouring, young, wealthy couple. Armed with a pocket-sized French dictionary, Yoav refuses to speak his native Hebrew as he desperately tries to immerse himself in French society. Living on only a few francs a day, he bounces from job to job on a wildly erratic journey, attempting to assimilate into a seemingly impenetrable culture.

Unpredictable yet kinetically assured, Lapid’s lucid assault against nationhood asks if individuals can ever be fully extricated from the society into which they were born. While Synonyms is loaded with ideas about identity, both personal and national, it’s the intense emotional impact of Yoav’s experiences that resonate so strongly.

Public 1: Mon, Sept 9, 9:45 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2

Public 2: Thurs, Sept 10, 1:00 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 4

Public 3, Saturday, Sept 14, 5:45 pm, Scotiabank 11


Nadav Lapid is a director and writer from Tel Aviv. His debut feature, Policeman (11), won more than 10 awards in international film festivals. His second feature, The Kindergarten Teacher (14), premiered at Cannes and was the basis for the 2018 film of the same name by Sara Colangelo, which played the Festival. Synonyms (19) is his latest film.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.