The Farewell Party

The Farewell Party, com­edy/drama, not rated, in He­brew with sub­ti­tles, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

Co-writ­ers and di­rec­tors Tal Granit and Sharon May­mon’s clever, mov­ing tale of eu­thana­sia at a Jerusalem re­tire­ment com­mu­nity is a film about tough choices. The res­i­dents suf­fer from ter­mi­nal can­cer, de­men­tia, and other ill­nesses. But a dose of low-key hu­mor helps The Farewell Party to steer clear of heavy-hand­ed­ness, even as it grap­ples with some se­ri­ous is­sues such as the eth­i­cal and moral ram­i­fi­ca­tions of as­sisted sui­cide.

Ye­hezkel (Ze’ev Re­vach) is an am­a­teur in­ven­tor with an iras­ci­ble na­ture. He plays pranks on his neigh­bors such as call­ing up his eter­nally suf­fer­ing friend Zelda (Ruth Geller), whose med­i­cal con­di­tions have over­whelmed her, and, ma­nip­u­lat­ing his voice through a de­vice, he pre­tends to be God, con­vinc­ing her to hang on a lit­tle longer. When Ye­hezkel is ap­proached by his neigh­bor Yana (Al­iza Rosen) with an un­usual re­quest — to in­vent a ma­chine that will eu­th­a­nize her dy­ing hus­band Max (Sh­muel Wolf) — he’s ret­i­cent to ac­cept the pro­posal. But he warms to the idea and be­gins to re­search the work of Amer­i­can pathol­o­gist Jack Kevorkian, a pro­po­nent of physi­cian-as­sisted sui­cide.

Soon, Ye­hezkel has in­vented a ma­chine that in­jects chem­i­cals into an IV, lead­ing to a peace­ful death. Ye­hezkel’s grace­ful wife Lev­ana (Lev­ana Finkel­stein) is morally op­posed to her hus­band’s new ven­ture, and their dis­agree­ment causes them to be­come es­tranged. When word gets around about the amaz­ing new ma­chine, re­quests for its use start pour­ing in, and a sim­ple act of mercy for a friend turns out to have un­in­tended con­se­quences.

The com­edy in The Farewell Party is sit­u­a­tional. Ye­hezkel and his friends have to con­sider le­gal and med­i­cal is­sues sur­round­ing eu­thana­sia and so­licit the med­i­cal ad­vice of a vet­eri­nar­ian (the only doc­tor they can find), and the le­gal ad­vice of a re­tired cop. Once the ter­mi­nally ill pa­tients have made recorded state­ments that it is their wish to end their life, the ma­chine takes care of the rest. The story takes a poignant turn when the health of Lev­ana, who suf­fers from de­men­tia, grows worse (one day, she shows up nude at the cafe­te­ria). She tells Ye­hezkel that she’s dis­ap­pear­ing, and the plead­ing, lost look in her eyes is heart­break­ing. As her mind de­te­ri­o­rates, she is in­creas­ingly de­pen­dent on Ye­hezkel’s care. Ye­hezkel finds him­self in a quandary when faced with los­ing his wife and his new­found abil­ity to end her suf­fer­ing. Lev­ana, too, in the aware­ness of her own cir­cum­stances, must con­tend with the pres­ence of the eu­thana­sia ma­chine.

The Farewell Party is re­spect­ful of its char­ac­ters, never mak­ing light of their predica­ments or the pains they suf­fer. Its heart is in the right place. The right­ness or wrong­ness of as­sisted sui­cide aside, it is likely that noth­ing brings greater com­fort than ar­riv­ing at death’s door sur­rounded by friends. — Michael Abatemarco

Call­ing Dr. Kevorkian: Ze’ev Re­vach and Lev­ana Finkel­stein

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