The Queen Has No Crown
Tomer Heymann’s exceedingly personal (i.e. borderline self-obsessive) film, "The Queen Has No Crown" documents the pointed pleasures and pains of a family in flux.
Certainly, he’s not the first -- or even the first homo -- to turn a probing, insistent lens on his own kin, attempting to get at the tough questions of familial existence, and there’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary here. But there needn’t be; the Heymanns are a dynamic and transient bunch with their share of emotional complications to investigate. More than anything, this is a film about migration -- about the tumultuous homeland being abandoned for a promising new land (Israel for USA), and a mother’s difficulty experiencing numerous farewells and an uncertain future.
However, at his own insistence, Tomer’s sexuality comes into play. Though his mother is a prototype for the accepting parent, there is resistance to be found in the family and in the nation.
"What a stupid idea: that time will improve things," Ofer, his brother, who takes his family to Oregon, scoffs when asked about Israel. This casual asseveration contrasts both with what seems like a fundamental hopefulness in Tomer’s voice and with their mother’s devotion to homeland (she was the first baby born in Kfar Yedidya village and voices her disapproval of her sons’ departures).
Tomer avoids overt politicizing or articulating his expectations for the future, but where some of his siblings (they are five brothers total) exude cynicism, he conveys some vague optimism, if only in his assiduousness in comprehending and capturing on video his conflicted family. It isn’t a morbid exercise; he clearly loves them all. The young nieces and nephews are quite easy to love, even when one nephew repeats the platitude "every generation must have children" as a half-baked rebuttal to Tomer’s relationship with his boyfriend, Erez.
Older brother Erez is the prickliest of the bunch, and in one caustic exchange, Tomer’s lack of enmity is incredible. Erez, when he finally agrees to be on camera, says to Tomer, "Biologically, you are useless. Actually, it’s good that you can’t pass this phenomenon on to future generations... You came out of the closet and discovered an empty world." Tomer receives this insult to his sexual identity (later Erez insists he is selfish for refusing to sacrifice his sexual proclivities in order to lead a conventional, offspring-producing life), and to the family with only a little sadness -- never anger.
Even more vitriolic are the protests staged by fundamentalists at the Gay PRIDE parade in Tel Aviv. One woman declares that homos are "worse than Nazis," and Tomer narrates ironically that, for once, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have come together (in their denouncement of gays).
Gay politics and the Israel-Palestine conflict are minor elements -- more of a backdrop, but they help create a fine balance of components in the film. Probably, the most poignant moments come from the dissection of family: For instance, Tomer’s camera lingering on his mother alone at the dinner table after one of her sons has left for America, and his intimate interviews with mother and father about their gradual growing apart from each other and the breaching of family tradition. His hopelessly romantic fixation on lover Erez is also touching, and a discreet portent of impending despair, given his lover’s seemingly lukewarm reception of his profuse affection.
A composite of two decades of film and video from various aspects of his family’s life, this is clearly a labor of love for Heymann. Fortunately for viewers, it’s full of challenging but lovable personalities and relatable struggles.