Unspoken – BFI Flare 2024

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer and Director: Jeremy Borison

A secret history of homosexual persecution on Nazi Germany is the “Unspoken” of Jeremy Borison’s new film screening at BFI Flare 2024 as the grandson of a survivor discovers a secret relationship among some family photographs following the death of his grandad. Blending into a sweet coming-of-age comedy set in a school, past and the present align when Noam falls for his history project partner Jonah. Borison creates an interesting sense of concealment and inquiry as his teenage characters learn more about their Jewish past and their growing feelings for one another.

In the days before his sister’s wedding, Noam finds a letter and a photograph implying his grandfather may have had a relationship with a mysterious man named ‘M’ before leaving Germany for America. With parents and teachers closing down any discussion of homosexuality, Noam teams up with fellow student Jonah to track down official Holocaust records and find out who M might be. But his final weeks at school also prove revelatory for Noam’s own sexuality.

Unspoken is a nicely paced 90-minute film that creates its context nicely, building the pressures on Noam to conform and his growing detachment from those expectations as he finds his own path. With a wedding and a recent death as the backdrop to this story, there are convincing reasons for family secrets to emerge as groups of people come together to celebrate and undertake religious rituals, reinforcing the traditions that Noam is expected to uphold.

Borison takes this into the schoolroom with a complex friendship group including a potential girlfriend that provides plenty of scope for hurt and further confusion between them which is well explained. The initial respect between Noam and Jonah develops well into something a little more personal, and although Borison holds back on giving them a full-blown rom com ending, the focus on Noam’s own self-discovery is well managed.

Charlie Korman is a likeable lead, mostly blundering his way through friendships, love and teenage angst about who he wants to be. There is an innocence to Noam which is very sympathetic as his eyes are widened not only to the possibilities of sexuality but also by understanding more about the hidden narratives within his family and his religious community. Michael Zap has less to do as Jonah but just be smart and adored but Korman and Zap have a winning chemistry, while Liz Richman is excellent as Miriam treading a painful line between hopeful love interest and crushed rejection.

Unspoken doesn’t offer up any major plot surprises, certainly in the teenage love story as the characters overcome obstacles and their own self-doubt to discover what they want, but there is some comfort in the inevitable sweetness, and Borison’s scenario makes for an interesting twist on this reassuring genre.

Unspoken is screening at BFI Flare 2024 from 13-24 March.

The Reviews Hub Score:


Show More
Photo of The Reviews Hub - Film

The Reviews Hub - Film

The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

Related Articles

Back to top button
The Reviews Hub