Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | June 17th, 2020
The Day After I’m Gone (Nimrod Eldar, 2019) 3½ out of 4 stars.
Though the premise of The Day After I’m Gone, from Israeli director Nimrod Eldar (making his feature debut) may appear bleak, the resultant film offers an incisive, effective and affecting analysis of the human capacity for both apathy and empathy, the two emotional states coexisting side by side in an often toxic mix. We follow the travails of Yoram and Roni, a father and daughter whose wife and mother has just recently died. Each retreating into their isolated bubble, they barely speak, though for one the consequences of such silence prove far more dire (at least in the short term). When Roni attempts suicide, Yoram, at a loss, plans a road trip to his in-laws, whom he does not particularly like. The misadventures that follow, however clumsy, have the benefit of at least provoking conversation. We watch, uneasy, but also, surprisingly, amused, captivated (for the most part) by this small story with very high stakes.
As Yoram, Menashe Noy (Working Woman) perfectly encapsulates the quiet grief that consumes a man not only unable to process his grief but unable to parent a depressed 17-year-old. Zohar Meidan, as Roni, also delivers a moving performance, at first impassive but soon revealing layers of feeling not far below the surface. The supporting ensemble is also excellent, delivering fully realized characters who express the many nuances of life in modern-day Israel. We feel present in a simultaneously real and cinematic drama, sentiments occasionally heightened for effect but always organic to the narrative.
What makes the movie especially powerful are the atmospheric details that flesh out the onscreen world, from the zoological park where Yoram works as a veterinary surgeon to the sports fans who roam the post-match streets at night to the recurring motif of amusement-park rides rotating within the frame. At times these asides border on the gratuitous, but more frequently they bring us further into the crisis at hand. Life goes on, no matter our personal state. We can engage or not, but the world may not take heed.
In one scene, early on, a coworker of Yoram warns him about the consequences of speech (or lack thereof), citing the “rice experiment” in which one labels one jar of rice with nice words and the other with the worst kind of vile language. In this scenario, the former jar’s contents flourish while the latter’s rots. One can laugh at the ridiculousness of this obvious bit of chicanery while nevertheless appreciating its core message: communication matters, and when we abandon our ability to speak to each other, we court tragedy. Though not much may be resolved by the end of The Day After I’m Gone, at least Yoram and Roni are finally talking, and that’s a good thing.
[Starting on June 18, 2020, The Day After I’m Gone streams on MUBI USA for 30 days.]