S#x Acts Works as a Crash Course in Sexual Ethics


The Israeli drama S#x Acts often feels like an empathy test. Its protagonist, a teenager named Gili (Sivan Levy), is so uninterested in preserving her dignity that it’s hard to care about her as a character, even though her real-life counterparts — of whom a great many exist — evoke instant compassion.

As the new girl in school, Gili makes “friends” with boys by offering handies and blowjobs. Wearing short shorts, and black bras under sheer, light-colored shirts, she performs whatever older boy Omri (Eviatar Mor) needles her into, collecting as her reward the three words that make her beam: “You’re so hot.”

Gili’s a loser, and not the lovable kind. But she has to be one to put up with the six trials that screenwriter Rona Segal and director Jonathan Gurfinkel have in store. They’re trials of mettle and nerve, as Gili is shoved deeper into the vast gray zone between consent and rape.

When Omri removes her bikini top in the pool while his friend Tomer (Roy Nik) stands next to her, she’s elated that both of them want her. But trading sexual favors for attention is rarely a long-term solution to deep insecurities.

The blurry lines between manipulation and force, especially for teens like Gili who are sexually experienced but emotionally naïve, are a rich and underexplored subject.

S#x Acts works as a crash course in sexual ethics, but it also fails to transcend its genre trappings as a morality tale about the dangers of low self-esteem.