The heart of the film, though is Yoav’s past. Mercier plays him as a quiet, unassuming man with a simmering rage. While his history is never explored in any great detail, it that hangs over him like a storm cloud. Yoav becomes quite adept at suppressing his anguish, until specific moments triggers his rage and anxiety in dark ways.
If this mysterious foreboding sounds ominous, do not fear. Synonyms is very much a straightforward human drama. It’s a character study of a man who copes with stress and his dark past by ignoring it. The definition of insanity, as attributed to Albert Einstein, is “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.” In Lapid’s tale, Yoav seems to be caught in this never-ending cycle of insanity, and we are treated to see the second or third cycle in Yoav’s life played out. It a cycle with no resolution.
“…Mercier plays him as a quiet, unassuming man with a simmering rage.”
As Yoav, Tom Mercier’s performance is brilliant and engaging. I love the fact that his story starts with Yoav as having literally nothing and the series of seemingly benign build-ups leading to moments Yoav’s breakdown. There is quite a bit of nudity in Synonym, and our feminist readers will appreciate its all of Mercier and his ding-dong. In the end, Yoav is just this guy, you know! His story is either going to appeal to you or it won’t, because it may lack the depth we’re used to in our award-winning dramas. Just give it a chance.
Synonyms screened at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival.