Next to Her
Compelling sibling drama impressively directed by first-timer Asaf Korman
Israeli director Asaf Korman’s intense debut feature brings a fresh eye to the complex emotions of suffocating co-dependency. The tale of an unhealthy symbiotic relationship between two sisters unfolds with a sense of understanding that can only stem from real-life experiences. Korman’s wife Liron Ben-Shlush wrote the screenplay based on events in her own family. She also stars as Chelli, a twentysomething security guard in Haifa who has assumed the responsibility for her younger sister Gabby (Dana Ivgy) who has serious learning difficulties. The women share everything and Chelli has a righteous conviction that she knows what is best, acting more like an overly protective mother than a caring sister. Their existence is almost feral.
When Gabby is enrolled in a day care centre, she begins to enjoy some independence, while Chelli turns her whirlwind romance with colleague Zohar (Yaakov Zada Daniel) into an act of retaliation and he is welcomed into their world. The cramped living conditions in their noisy, ramshackle flat contribute to the sense of claustrophobia and discomfort as the new set of relationships start to unfold.
A tale of jealousy, resentment and insecurity, Next to Her gradually shifts our perceptions of the two women as Chelli is shown to be as reliant on her control over her sister as Gabby is dependent on the care she receives. Ben-Shlush effectively captures the mixture of affection and exasperation that Chelli has for her sister. Ivgy is so convincing as Gabby that it is hard to credit that it is a performance, whilst Zada Daniel makes Zohar a warm, likeable breath of normality in the highly charged world of the two sisters. The strength of their performances and the unflinching direction of Korman conspire to create an uncomfortable but compelling human drama.
Limited release from Fri 11 Mar.