Monday, May 18, 2015

The Farewell Party

A neatly balanced tragicomedy about the easily blurred line between assisted living and assisted death, The Farewell Party follows a group of friends in an Israeli assisted living community as they help each other cope with the ravages of aging, including the agony of slow, painful deaths from the likes of cancer and dementia's rapid diminishment of the self. Scenes like one in which they're stopped for speeding on the way home from a comrade's deathbed inject the kind of relief you might find in a joke shared at a wake. The cocky young traffic cop starts off condescending to Yehezkel (Ze'ev Revach), the "Gramps" at the wheel, but he loses his composure when Yana (Aliza Rosen), the dead man's wife, starts to weep and Yehezkel says it's because of the cost of the ticket. ("We live on Social Security," he says sorrowfully, playing the "old" card deftly). The rest of the group starts to cry, too, triggered by Yana's tears, and the discombobulated cop brusquely announces that he's letting them off.

Being stopped by the cop carries an additional charge because Yana's husband didn't just die; he ended his pain-wracked life voluntarily, using an illegal assisted-suicide machine that Yana requested and Yehezkel built, with help from their friend Dr. Daniel (Ilan Dar) and his on-the-down-low married lover. (In another tension-reducing comic bit, the lover is literally hiding in a closet when the rest of the group first encounters him.) Like a geriatric Ocean's Eleven, the film's heroes cook up their plan for the machine in various emblematic settings, but rather than glamorous casinos or cushy hotel rooms, they plot in places like their upscale facility's greenhouse or an activities room in which a bingo game is in progress. Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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