Next To Her Review

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School security guard Chelli (Ben-Shlush) cares for her sister Gabby (Dana Ivgy) in their cramped Haifa apartment. But their relationship comes under strain when Gabby starts attending a daycare centre and Chelli invites teacher boyfriend Zohar (Yaakov Zada Daniel) to move in with them.


Striking a balance between authenticity and sensitivity is always tricky when directing an able-bodied actor playing a character with learning difficulties. But Israeli debutant Asaf Korman was able to draw on personal experience, because his wife Liron Ben-Shlush based her screenplay on her relationship with her own sister, who shares many of the problems that Chelli (Ben-Shlush) has to confront in this intimate and often unsettling drama. Some will question the casting of Dana Ivgy as a 24-year-old whose congenital condition has prompted her harassed mother (Carmit Mesilati Kaplan) to abandon her to the care of her sibling. But Ivgy so immerses herself in the role of Gabby that it's impossible to detect that she is giving a performance.

Ivgy so immerses herself in the role of Gabby that it's impossible to detect that she is giving a performance.

Such is the bond between Chelli and Gabby that they share a bed, a bath and a toothbrush. But Chelli's refusal to acknowledge her own co-dependency means that she has to be coerced into sending Gabby to the daycare centre run by Sveta (Sophia Ostrisky) after social services responds to a neighbour's complaint that Gabby incessantly bangs her head on the floor when Chelli locks her in their unkempt apartment while she's at work. Her sense of rejection after Gabby makes new friends drives her into a romance with Yaakov Zada Daniel's mummy's-boy supply teacher. He also has a way with Gabby and, in trying to regain control of her situation, Chelli jumps to an erroneous conclusion that has dire consequences for everyone.

Although distressing, the denouement isn't entirely credible. However, this is the only misstep in a picture that thoroughly understands its subject and makes evocative widescreen use of close-ups and the cramped interiors to convey its rigours and frictions without resorting to histrionics.

Intelligently scripted, tactfully directed and superbly played, this is a compelling study in doing the right things for the wrong reasons.