When I was a little boy, my father was a screenwriter who worked on both movies and TV shows. Sometimes, he and I would sit down and watch Perry Mason, a murder mystery and courtroom drama series. By the first commercial break of each one-hour show, my father would predict exactly how the plot would develop. He was always right. At the time, I found this annoying. But as I grew older, I came to appreciate my father’s understanding of formulaic plotting. Watching The Cakemaker brought back this memory because early in the film, the entire trajectory of the upcoming plot struck me as obvious.
Thomas is a young, shy, hunky baker in Berlin who shares a loving affair with Oren, who lives in Jerusalem, but regularly visits Berlin on business. Back in Jerusalem, Oren is married and has a son. Thomas and Oren really care for one another. When Thomas learns that Oren has died in a car accident, he decides to deal with his grief by visiting Jerusalem and entering into the life of Oren’s widow, Anat, and the rest of Oren’s family, without revealing that he had a connection with Oren. This sounds creepy, but Thomas is a nice guy. He takes a job in Anat’s café and soon wins over everyone with his pastry-making skills. He gets closer to Anat, her son and Oren’s mother. And his cookies, cakes and other baked goods are great for Anat’s business. The villain in the story is Anat’s brother, a religious fanatic who tries to bully his sister into keeping everything strictly kosher, although even he insists that Thomas not spend shabbat alone.
We are periodically reminded that Thomas is gay. He gazes at men in parks and, when he goes jogging, he minces. However, Anat and her family don’t seem to notice. The one unexpected development in the plot—and it is a good one—comes late, when Thomas learns the circumstances that preceded Oren’s death.
It isn’t necessarily a bad thing to know early on where a plot is going. For example, films based on famous historical events can still be appreciated despite the fact that their plots do not have surprises.
After watching The Cakemaker, I watched its trailer, and I was surprised to see the Jerusalem Post describe the film’s “twist-filled story” and IndieWire saying it has a “wholly unexpected…turn.” I guess their reviewers didn’t grew up with a parent who was a screenwriter.