Next To Her (12A.)
Directed by Asaf Korman.
Starring Liron Ben-Shlush, Dana Ivgy, Yaakov Zada Daniels, Varda Ben Hur and Sophia Ostrisky. Hebrew with subtitles. 90 mins
Asaf Korman’s film about a woman whose life revolves around caring for her severely mentally challenged younger sister Gaby (Ivgy) in a cluttered noisy flatoffers an unadorned view of the world, without thrills or sentiment. It is not a happy place to spend an hour and a half of your time, but neither is it quite the trawl through misery you dread it will be. The fact that you don't walk out feeling absolutely despairing is in its own way oddly inspiring.
One time when they go out a passerby says to Chelli (Ben-Shlush) about Gaby that “They are our atonement in this world.” The handicapped are generally portrayed as saintly innocents in stories but the film doesn't take such a saintly view. There is at least a suspicion that Gaby takes some pleasure in messing up Chelli's life, while the motives behind Chelli's devotion to caring for her sister are quite murky.
During the film I did feel a little bit uncomfortable about using a mentally challenged woman in a film, so afterwards it was soemthing of a shock to find out the Ivgy is an Israeli actress and pop star. I suppose if you went in cold it is possible that you'd believe Day-Lewis in My Left Foot or DeCaprio in Gilbert Grape weren't acting their conditions, but it is still a remarkable feat to convince so completely.
You're probably reading this thinking I don't want to see this film no matter how good it is supposed to be; and I respect that, I only went to see it because I had time to kill before another screening. Next To Her is drawn from Liron Ben-Shlush real experiences with her own sister and together with her husband Korman they have brought it to the screen with such care and honesty that it transcends the bleakness of its subject matter.