Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon’s The Farewell Party is a beautifully told comedy drama about a group of friends who are truly celebrating life but it also opens up a debate about the right to die and assisted suicide. Set within a retirement home, Granit and Maymon’s screenplay is a warm hearted story about life, death and everything in between. It discusses death in a frank and vital way, something so rarely seen on screen and it finds a delicate way to deal with these themes – somewhere that is neither sugar coating it nor cold matter of fact, but somewhere that allows the audience to settle with the characters for a few hours and fall in love with them.
Yehezkel (Ze’ev Revan) is an inventor who spends his days finding ways to lighten up the lives of his wife, Levana (Levana Finkelstein) who has just gotten her own diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and their friends around them. Unfortunately their friend Max (Shmuel Wolf) is terminally ill, dying slowly in a hospital bed where doctors fuss around him and try to keep him alive as long as possible. His wife Yana (Aliza Rozen) wants to help and pleads with Yehezkel to help Max end it all. Yana and Yehezkel work together with retired vet Dr. Daniel (Ilan Dar) and a former detective Raffi (Rafi Tabor), to help Max by creating a device that Max can click, which will push tranquillisers into his bloodstream and quickly bring his life to an end. When Levana finds out what her friends have done, she calls them all murderers but her condition quickly worsens and she realises that their plan may not be as bad as she thought.
When it gets out amongst the community about the device and their plans, the group gets more requests from others to help bring an end to their loved ones suffering and The Farewell Party soon falls somewhere between an interesting satire on health and age, a discussion about the morals of what they are doing and a drama debating societies own attitudes to death. The concept is funny of course – being asked to help kill dying family members has a slight tongue in cheek thing about it but as the film continues and the audience get to know the characters intimately, the film becomes much more emotional and about the group rather than what they are doing. There are incredible moments including the reveal of a gay character physically coming out of a closet, a police officer who is never able to issue a speeding ticket and when Levana turns up to a mealtime naked (as the disease takes her), her friends decide to show her it isn’t important by having a naked party smoking in a nearby greenhouse.
As well as the delicately written script, the performances from the entire cast (especially the central actors Revan, Finkelstein and Rozen) are stunning. They set the screen alight and clearly the whole cast has incredible chemistry and camaraderie about the whole thing. They bounce off of one another whether they are having a particularly comedic moment, or a more sullen dramatic moment.
The Farewell Party grips the audience from the very first and very funny scene, following the journey of these wonderful characters until the very end. It’s a warm, pleasant and genuine film which is bound to entertain and interest whatever your age.