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Next To Her – Review

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: [Unknown]
 
Director: Asaf Korman
 
Writer: Liron Ben-Shlush - Sari Ezouz
 
Cast: Liron Ben-Shlush - Liat Goren - Varda Ben Hur
 
Direction
 
 
 
 
 


 
Writing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Performance
 
 
 
 
 


 
Sound & Music
 
 
 
 
 


 
Cinematography
 
 
 
 
 


 
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Total Score
 
 
 
 
 
4/5


User Rating
1 total rating

 


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Posted March 2, 2016 by

 
Full Article
 
 

Next To Her Review:

Asaf Korman’s striking debut feature draws on the real life experiences of his wife, writer and star of Next to Her, Liron Ben Shlush. It tells the story of Chelli (Liron Ben Shlush), a security guard at a school, and her younger sister Gabby (Dana Ivgy), who has an unspecified and severe mental disability. The two women live together in a dingy and cluttered apartment, with Chelli acting as carer and parent to Gabby. Their mother makes a brief appearance, but it quickly becomes clear that she cannot cope with her daughter’s condition. Chelli’s job requires her to leave Gabby locked in their flat for hours at a time, where Gabby’s disturbing habit of wailing and banging her head on the floor until it bleeds attracts the attention of the neighbours and authorities. Chelli is forced to place her sister into day care during shifts, but when Gabby not only adapts to this arrangement, but seemingly thrives in her new environment, the extent of Chelli’s own possessiveness becomes apparent.

Enter Zohar (Yaakov Daniel Zada), a supply teacher at Chelli’s school with whom she embarks on a whirlwind affair. Zohar seems like a dismal prospect at first, a thirty-something living with his mother, who seems more interested in food than Chelli after their first hurried and awkward sexual encounter. But Zohar proves to be an attentive boyfriend, and forms a bond with Gabby, so much so that he is soon moving into the sisters’ apartment and restoring a semblance of order to the chaos of their lives. While she attempts to be happy with her new lover, his influence over her sister sees Chelli struggle to relinquish her vice-like grip on Gabby, and begin to resent the new boundaries imposed upon her. It becomes clear that while Gabby is utterly reliant on her big sister in many ways, theirs is actually a symbiotic relationship, and that Chelli’s need to control and dominate means investing all of her emotions in her sibling to the exclusion of all other intimate relationships.

Next to Her is a claustrophobic film, and it becomes increasingly so as Zohar moves into the apartment and changes the dynamic between the sisters. Tenderness is often punctuated with moments of sudden violence – Gabby often lashes out and Chelli occasionally hits back – which build a sense of tension until the final scenes in which Chelli realises she cannot prevent the world encroaching on the cocoon she has so carefully protected. In one particularly memorable scene, the sisters share a bath, their legs entwined, and the visual is both innocent and childlike, and reminiscent of post-coital lovers. It serves to highlight the lack of separation and space between the two women, and then becomes altogether darker as Chelli’s playful ducking of her sister’s head under water with her foot becomes increasingly aggressive and chilling as her jealousy swells.

Next To Her Review

Zohar’s attempts to instil a sense of healthy distance between the sisters are constantly thwarted by Chelli, who brings Gabby into their bed or sneaks off in the night to share the sofa bed with her sister. Any intimations the younger girl makes towards a desire for independence are met with anger and denial by Chelli, and it’s this inability to see Gabby as an autonomous being in her own right which blinds Chelli to the reality of what’s happening until it’s too late. We, the audience, catch on long before Chelli, and must bear witness as she destroys a chance of lasting happiness based on an erroneous assumption. We cannot, however, be sure that this self-sabotage isn’t the manifestation of Chelli’s true desire to maintain the status quo, and to keep her sister all to herself. The scene of Chelli thumping her own head repeatedly into a wall, mirroring her stricken sister’s behaviour, underscores the fact that while Gabby’s issues are manifest in her physicality, apparent for the world to see, Chelli’s grasp of reality may be just as tenuous as her sister’s.

With outstanding performances from both of the female leads, and a great supporting turn from Zada as Zohar, Next to Her is a brave, unflinching movie about family, duty, dependency, and how the lines between love, obsession, and hatred can sometimes be very blurry. Difficult to watch in places, it never feels inauthentic or out to shock. Despite the dark nature of the subject matter, there are moments of real beauty and humour. Both Ben Shlush and Ivgy are completely believable in their roles, and their complex relationship is fully fleshed out. The film’s denouement left me with a few questions in terms of plot, but in retrospect I think enough of a breadcrumb trail was laid throughout to make it successful, and it’s certainly moving. It also poses some interesting questions around agency and consent without ever feeling judgemental. Ultimately, this is a film about the many facets of love, and how it can both define us and undo us.

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Katie Young | @Pinkwood | Katie Young – Author | Facebook | Freelance Contributor

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