A sparkling gem of a film, as richly textured as it is deftly realised…
Director Asaf Korman has succeeded in crafting that rare treat; a directorial feature début which is both tight and polished enough to feel like the fifth or sixth work by an experienced director and also as powerfully emotive as to have real lasting power. Of course a considerable amount of these plaudits need to be shared with Korman’s partner, writer and lead actress Liron Ben-Shlush who, drawing from her personal experience with her sister, has written a beautifully observed account of a working woman who’s close relationship with her mentally disabled younger sister is fundamentally challenged when both sisters form bonds with people other than each other.
The film’s weighty subject matter is perhaps suggestive of a film that would fall into well-intentioned melodrama, however across the board the film is a pleasing exercise in restraint. The script and direction are precise; there is no wastage here as they keep the film very lean and focused, without sacrificing either the warmth of the sister’s friendship nor the piercing insight which is so integral to the film’s success. Liron Ben-Shlush demonstrates real skill here, subtly revealing ever deeper layers of character throughout the film as we witness and slowly come to understand the full extent of the steadfast and rather unhealthy dependency she has attached to her younger sister.
Playing the younger sister is Dana Ivgy who delivers a performance which is little short of breathtaking. It’s a dangerous thing to take a fully able actress like Ivgy and ask her to try and play someone who is mentally handicapped, let alone opposite somebody who has a vast amount of experience of the illness through their own sibling. The pitfalls are immense and yet she traverses them with ease. It is impossible to detect any falseness in her performance as she becomes her character from the inside out. I dare say if you don’t know her work before sitting down to this film you would be convinced they had a disabled actress play the role.
I urge you to see Next to Her if you get the chance. It’s a sharply observed and emotionally stirring glimpse into the life of two sisters which practices restraint when it needs to and keeps all of its huge emotions painfully close to the chest. Dana Ivgy deserves all the attention she can possibly get for her tremendous work here, and if the universe is just both her and this film will be seen by many. Do try to be one of those who gets to see it.
Next to Her is one of Rumsey’s picks of the best films of the year. Check back at the end of the year for our top ten list!