Next to Her
Saturday 12th October, 2.45pm – Vue West End
Monday 14th October, 3.45pm – BFI Southbank NFT3
Powerful Israeli film Next to Her plumbs unexpected depths to reveal its most emotionally potent relationships. Asaf Korman’s handling of delicate scenarios is both truthful and emotionally sensitive, leading to an ending that’s both subdued and utterly gripping.
High school security guard Chelli cares for her younger sister Gabby – a 24-year-old with severe learning difficulties – in a tiny apartment in an undefined block of flats. Working during the day, Chelli is forced to leave Gabby to her own devices; an arrangement that often ends with truly miserable consequences.
Under pressure from social services and a dispassionate mother, Chelli begins taking Gabby to a centre that promises to care for her during working hours; to Chelli’s surprise, Gabby takes to the new routine surprisingly well. With more spare time than she’s had for a while, Chelli begins the process of structuring a life, complete with beauty treatments, socialising and even romantic interests. Without her seemingly questionable symbiotic relationship with Gabby, however, it’s not long before it’s Chelli that begins to struggle with the change.
With so much history and routine being subjected to so much turmoil, it’s thankful that the relationships in the film are grounded by such deep characterisation. Dana Ivgy and Liron Ben-Shlush provide affecting performances – particularly Ivgy who delivers a studied example of mental disability – to reveal a realistic connection that’s been worn by years of unspoken desperation. Potential love interest Zohar, meanwhile, offers a new perspective that sees both the warmth and potential cruelty that the pair’s isolated lifestyle offers.
Next to Her is a slow build: Seemingly small events, although given an increased importance in Chelli’s eyes, only give way to the truly earth-shattering ones in the film’s final act. All the misgivings and insecurities that appeared during the rest of the film are quite suddenly brought to a head, leading to an immensely gripping ending for a film with roots so firmly in reality.
With an ending involving so much disruption, it’s hard to gauge whether the film provides any real resolution or not, but this is far from a criticism. Next to Her asks a lot of its audience – trusting viewers to fill in the dots to truly appreciate its conclusion – but it’s a film that offers plenty in return to those willing to give it their time.
Joe Manners Lewis
Next to Her is released in the UK in 2015.
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Watch the trailer for Next to Her here: