In Israeli director Nimrod Eldar’s feature debut, The Day After I’m Gone (Hayom Sheachrey Lechti), the failed suicide attempt of a teenage girl prompts her father to finally take an interest in her life — or at least to try to. The result is a delicately handled if rather underwhelming story of communication breakdown, where there’s more showing than telling but not enough of an emotional charge, especially in the last act. A premiere in Berlin’s Panorama section should give the film a push abroad.
Eldar delivers some of his strongest scenes during the opening reels, beginning with the image of a widowed veterinarian, Yoram (Menashe Noy), operating on an enormous jaguar who’s been put to sleep for surgery. Another sequence, set inside the Lion Country Safari-type zoo where Yoram works in Israel, reveals a place where people and wild animals peacefully co-exist as long as nobody breaks the rules.
A thoughtful if all-too subtle study of parental malaise.
Things at home are less tranquil for Yoram, whose troubled teenage daughter, Roni (Zohar Meidan), has been missing for two days. When she finally shows up at night without much of an explanation for her disappearance, Yoram — who seems incapable of uttering more than a handful of words at a time — can only sit idly by. A few nights later, Roni overdoses on pills, and her father’s utter helplessness is perfectly illustrated in a long shot that has him restrained by policemen outside her bedroom door, watching as EMTs try to resuscitate the girl before it’s too late.
While the film provides a fair share of drama early on, things calm down once Roni is released from the hospital and her father takes them on a visit to his deceased wife’s family in the countryside. (Though it’s never overtly stated, the absence of Yoram’s wife seems to be the main cause of her depression.) There, they find themselves living in a dysfunctional household headed up by Yoram’s volatile brother-in-law (Alon Neuman), leading up to an intervention that will hopefully change Roni’s ways.
Besides a few brief outbursts, much tends to be left unsaid in the second half of The Day After I’m Gone, with Eldar allowing his characters to quietly react to their new surroundings — including a giant sinkhole that Roni escapes to at one point — as they come to terms with a death, a suicide attempt and the fact that they only have each other. Yet the drama doesn’t really gain momentum once the two hit the road, and the pic’s overtly subtle and laconic approach to narrative tends to keep emotions at bay, even if the relationship depicted feels both realistic and even poignant in places.
It’s too bad that Eldar, who also served as editor, left behind the compelling ambiance of the zoo for the more mundane family setting, though he does manage to pepper the latter scenes with a few strong moments (including a haunting dream sequence). In visual terms, the director and lenser Itai Marom (Mountain) keep the imagery naturalistic yet vivid, with sound design (also by Eldar, who has a background in sound) adding a nice layer of atmosphere to the action. Performances are good, especially Noy as a father whose colossal failure to communicate causes much grief.
Production companies: Spiro Films LTD, United King Films
Cast: Menashe Noy, Zohar Meidan, Alon Neuman, Sarit Vino-Elad, Claudia Dulitchi, Sharon Hacoen, Miri Aloni
Director-screenwriter: Nimrod Eldar
Producers: Jonathan Doweck, Leon Edery, Moshe Edery, Nimrod Eldar, Eitan Mansuri
Director of photography: Itai Marom
Production designer: John Yonatan Jacoby
Costume designer: Hila Royzenman
Editor: Nimrod Eldar
Casting director: Chamutal Zerem
Venue: Berlin International Film Festival (Panorama)