It's a recipe for trouble. Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) is a baker in Berlin whose fling with Oren, a visiting Israeli businessman, grows more serious with each of his monthly visits. When he gets ghosted, Thomas pokes around and learns Oren has died in an accident. He flies to Jerusalem and hangs around the cafe of Oren's widow, but instead of explaining himself he ends up as the new dishwasher.
Quiet, humble and friendly, Thomas' penchant for confectionary soon boosts the sleepy coffee house's clientele, even if it skirts strict kosher laws. Naturally, Thomas and Anat (the widow, played with wonderful wistfulness by Sarah Adler, seen recently in Foxtrot) and her son soon bond, even though she doesn't know he is sharing their grief. Her brother-in-law (Zohar Strauss) doesn't trust the newcomer, but her late husband's mother (Sandra Sade) only needs an instant to know. (Mothers, somehow, always know.) The tenderness in these speak-of-anything-else scenes is extraordinary.
The Cakemaker is more of a petit four than a belly bomb, but it's striking in its particularity. Though shot in Jerusalem, there's nothing of the Old City or anything else from a Fodor's travel guide. Israel's religious codes are just a fact of life for secular Jews, like traffic in Los Angeles or stalled subways in New York. As the story cooks, we wait for Thomas to get burned, but don't judge him too harshly. Though in a rough situation, these are fundamentally good people; the film's aftertaste is sweet.