Next To Her, film review: ‘Bleak but oddly inspiring’

12:00 14 March 2016

Asaf Korman’s claustrophobic film about a woman whose life revolves around caring for her severely mentally challenged younger sister Gaby (Ivgy) in a cluttered noisy flat, offers an unadorned view of the world, one 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 remarks to Chelli (Ben-Shlush) about Gaby that “They are our atonement in this world”.

The disabled are generally portrayed as saintly innocents in stories but this film doesn’t take such a saintly view.

There is at least a suspicion that Gaby rather enjoys messing up Chelli’s life, while the motives behind Chelli’s devotion to caring for her sister are quite murky.

I did feel a little uncomfortable about using a mentally disabled woman in a film; afterwards it was both a shock and relief to find out that 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 DiCaprio 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’ but this has been brought to the screen with such care and honesty that it transcends the bleakness of its subject matter.

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