Next to Her את לי לילה , directed by Asaf Korman, was the big prize-winner at the last Haifa Film Festival, October 2014. This is an emotional and hard-hitting film about caring for a disabled sister, about relationships, about frustration and loneliness.
The film tells the story of two sisters living together in Haifa. Gabby is mentally-challenged. She is cared for by her older sister, Cheli, who works during the day as a security guard at a local high school. It isn't easy to care for such a sister. The difficulties, loneliness and frustrations are all apparent. Eventually Cheli finds a day-care program for her sister and begins to take her there regularly, while she is at work. But they are still very close, sleeping together every night, bathing together, sharing a somewhat ambivalent relationship. Eventually Cheli meets a guy -- he's the substitute gym teacher at the high school. As expected, this begins to affect the relationship between the sisters.
According to an interview on Israeli Radio with the screenwriter, Liron Ben Shlush (who plays Cheli and is the wife of the film director), the image of the sister takes inspiration from her own sister. The story of the film was born in an acting workshop where she decided to write a scene about what would have happened to her if she hadn't had such a supportive family around her, how her life would have been different.
In fact, the viewer wonders about this too. Just when we are asking ourselves about the rest of the family, the mother pays a visit and we realize that she is not capable of caring for Gabby. She has no empathy or love for her severely-disabled daughter.
This is an artistic yet realistic film. The pacing is superb, and the acting by both of the lead women characters (Cheli is played by Ben Shlush and Gabby is played by Dana Ivgy) is a tour-de-force. As the film draws you in, the twists in the narrative cause you to gasp, and the hard-hitting nature of the material leaves you extraordinarily affected long after.
The title of the film in Hebrew, את לי לילה , At Li Laylah, is taken from a Boaz Sharabi song, which you can listen to on youtube.
Next to Her was produced by United King.