Like the Oscar-winning Ida, Next to Her represents another movie that, while brief, is filled with as much complexity as a film double its length. There are much worse ways to spend 80 minutes of your life.
Next to Her is, at its core, a love story – although not one you might expect. Chelli (Liron Ben-Shlush) is a beautiful young woman living in Israel, but feels the strain when it comes to looking after her mentally disabled sister Gabby (Dana Ivgy). When she begins to offload her sister for a few hours each day in a care home, and even meets a potential love interest, things start looking up for her – but Chelli’s love for her sister is something that she can’t simply put away.
Directing with a steady hand is Asaf Korman, who weaves a hard-hitting domestic story that is refreshingly eye-opening in its frankness, straight forward about its on-screen approach to mental disability, and boasts a narrative that bounds forward with ever-building momentum. Whenever things calm down enough, a serene score begins peeking through the cracks, before it halts abruptly whenever Chelli is brought back down to her trudging reality. It’s a small but smart move, that brings to the forefront her plight: does Chelli leave the care of Gabby to someone else, or does she continue to keep her sister with someone who cares about her? Zohar (Yaakov Zada Daniel) may be the new man in her life, but she can’t quite understand if Gabby was who she needed all along.
While its brevity does mean it delivers its dramatic meat by the bucketload, Next to Her ends on a mortifying epiphany, leaving us gasping, but hanging on to a potentially irreconcilable note. But perhaps that’s the point; this chamber piece-meets-issue movie soars at almost every moment, but pulls away at just the right times to leave us some heavy topic to chew on. And thanks to the trio of engrossing performances at its centre, and a mercurially written screenplay by star Liron Ben-Shlush, Next to Her is simple when it needs to be, and only ever as complex as your own perspective allows.