Minyan review – tender coming-of-age tale of a gay Jewish New Yorker

In the Russian-Jewish community of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn in the 1980s, gay yeshiva student David (Samuel H Levine) is having an identity crisis. Closely monitored by his overbearing parents, he moves in with his newly widowed grandfather, Josef (Ron Rifkin), on the basis that he will complete the building’s “minyan” – the minimum number of people needed for communal worship. Josef’s apartment is only a few blocks away, but in such a tight-knit community it might as well be another country. From this new home, David begins to explore his sexuality, taking the train to a gay bar in the East Village, embarking on an affair with a gorgeous bartender, and reading James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room in the local library.

The film’s bluesy woodwind score has a teasing, goading quality that feels tinged with melancholy; the spectre of Aids hovers around the film’s edges. What’s most interesting about Eric Steel’s tender coming-of-age drama is the queerness hiding in plain sight. When fixing the toilet of the two men who live next door, David clocks that there’s only one bed.

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