TIt is the first fictional feature film from filmmaker Eric Steel, previously responsible for the controversial documentary The Bridge, about people who commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Minyan is a low-key, withdrawn emotional drama set in the 1980s within the Russian Jewish immigrant community of New York’s “Little Odessa”. David (Samuel H Levine) is a young Jewish homosexual who reads James Baldwin a lot; he is at odds with his bossy parents and much closer to his recently widowed grandfather Josef (Ron Rifkin) who now has a modest but comfortable apartment in a subsidized apartment building much sought after by observant Jews. David also comes to live there, both agreeing to constitute the required number (the “minyans”) for public worship.
David can see that two of the older Jewish men in the building are in fact a couple, their relationship is accepted on the basis of not asking, not telling, but whose gender identity has been formally removed, or at least. tacitly viewed by them as irrelevant to the horrors they experienced during the war, and the resulting need for loyalty to traditional Judaism. David’s Jewish identity is also at odds with his own hidden gay identity, and he has a passionate affair with handsome bartender Bruno (Alex Hurt) who is angry with David’s ignorance of the AIDS crisis.
Steel brings a very particular control and restraint to his film, both in terms of the subdued color palette and emotional language which, despite explicit scenes of sex, homophobic tension, and paranoia, has something opaque about it and elliptical. The film ends, however, with this now obsolete rarity: the freeze frame, which seems to belong to a lighter and more humorous film. Levine brings assertive and intelligent performance.