HOLLYWOOD IS NEVER going to make a movie like The Farewell Party. In American mass-market cinema, the elderly are merely sources for comedy, trite drama, or easy surprise—excuses to have us marvel at how they're fighting crime or bedding young lovers or "beating the odds."
You'll get no such antics here. This quiet, deeply felt, surprisingly funny film from Israeli directors Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon offers an unblinking look at the often ugly business of getting older and dying, revealing the uncomfortable truth that, as one character puts it, for most seniors, "inside they're like children; only their bodies have changed."
Those aging bodies are what concerns The Farewell Party most: Early on, we're subjected to the agonized wails of a bedridden senior living in constant pain—and the strain it's putting on his wife. Moved by their plight, Yehezkel (played by veteran actor Ze'ev Revach) decides to help end his friend's life painlessly, with the help of his wife and two fellow residents of the retirement community where they reside.
This illegal act sets in motion a story that explores not only the lengths people will go to for their loved ones, but the moral questions drawn by people helping someone commit suicide—in a country, and practicing a religion, that forbids it. The bonds between these people gives The Farewell Party its sturdy heft; a parallel story runs throughout, as Yehezkel tries to maintain normality as his wife Levana (Levana Finkelstein) begins to succumb to dementia.
As sad as it can be, The Farewell Party doesn't leave you in emotional tatters at the end. The warmth and tenderness of the relationships at the center of it leave you glowing—and will likely inspire you to hold those you love, both those older and younger than you, a little tighter.