Next To Her


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Next To Her
"Ben-Shlush is riveting in the central role."

Rachel (Liron Ben-Shlush) is 27. She's smart, attractive, energetic; on meeting her, you'd think she was really going places. But Rachel is also a full time carer. She lives with her sister Gabby (Dana Ivgy) who has serious learning difficulties. Their mother has largely abandoned them, saying she can't cope anymore. Rachel is made of stronger stuff, but her very toughness, together with her devotion to her sister's needs, could be her undoing.

Ben-Shlush, whose own sister has similar problems, is riveting in the central role, successfully communicating the complex mixture of anger, frustration and love that defines this central relationship. Her character is vividly three dimensional and it will come as no surprise to the viewer that Rachel captivates colleague Zohar (Yaakov Zada Daniel), with the two embarking on a whirlwind romance. Zohar not only takes Gabby's presence in his stride but makes an effort to form a friendship with her. It's a difficult thing, however, to navigate such a complex entanglement of lives, especially when Rachel is unwilling to acknowledge that anything might need to change.

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Essentially a simple story about a complex situation, Next To Her relies on powerful acting to carry us through a developing situation where many things are clearer to the viewer than to the characters. In popular social mythology, carers are not supposed to feel much beyond compassion, and Rachel has, whilst accepting her own anger and, indeed, acting it out through teasing whose essential harmlessness Gabby seems fully able to recognise, bought into this idea so completely that she fails to recognise what's happening to her emotionally. For her, everything is focused on her sister's helplessness, though it soon becomes plain to the viewer how much Rachel depends on Gabby. When Zohar begins to argue that Gabby should have more independence, just in little ways, jealousy mingles with suspicion and Rachel begins to express her stress in ways not so very different from the behaviours she pathologises in her sister. The differences between the two become less stark and Rachel can no longer be so confident that she's the reasonable one.

For all its simplicity, this is a smart little film that asks intelligent questions as well as packing an emotional punch.

Reviewed on: 01 Feb 2015
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A woman devoted to caring for her sister becomes involved in a complex relationship when their routine is broken.
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Director: Asaf Korman

Writer: Liron Ben-Shlush

Starring: Liron Ben-Shlush, Jacob Daniel, Dana Ivgy

Year: 2014

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Israel

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