Review: Next To Her

Next To Her is an absorbing, tour de force from director Asaf Korman with an incredible and unforgettable performance by Dana Ivgy as Gabby.

Next To Her is about two sisters Chelli and Gabby and their special relationship due to the fact that Gabby is mentally disabled and Chelli cares for her. The two of them live together and Chelli is Gabby’s sole carer. Yet when Chelli falls in love with a man the special relationship between the sisters is tested that leads to unforeseen consequences.

Dana Ivgy gives a spellbinding and arresting performance as the mentally disabled sister of Chelli (Liron Ben-Shlush) in this Israeli film that gives a convincing portrayal of what life is like with a mentally disabled family member. Her performance is so realistic that I thought she actually was an actress with special needs. She is not. Her performance will astound and hopefully provoke a reaction to make you think about the ways we consider the needs of those with mental disabilities.

This film works so well because of the sparse narrative and incredible cinematography. Given that the character Gabby is mentally challenged the majority of the communication between her and Chelli is down through gestures and noises. Also the film is based on the real life experience of Liron Ben-Shlush whose sister is mentally disabled and who was the inspiration of the Gabby character. Her husband Asaf Korman directed this film with a lightness of touch. The script is wonderful in so far as you are torn between understanding the strain Chelli must be going through and her need for release and love. This is coupled with her fierce, almost primal, protection of Gabby that inadvertently stops Gabby from growing. Even in the moments where Chelli is calling Gabby a moron and fatso you can almost feel the love radiating from the screen. There are so many themes running through this film: shame, vulnerability, love, intimacy, trust, respect and all are carefully explored and developed. This all leads to the final powerful scene that will play on your mind for days if not weeks after seeing the film.

This is the best film I have seen in 2016 – well written, good direction that allowed the actresses to act and space for the audience to take it all in and draw their own conclusions. A must see!

Next To Her was released on 11 March.

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