Director: Nimrod Eldar
Stars: Menashe Noy, Zohar Meidan, Sarit Vino-Elad
Methods of communication are at the heart of this handsome Israeli debut from filmmaker Nimrod Eldar. Yoram (Menashe Noy) is a 50-year-old veterinarian and recent widower who is having trouble relating to his teenage daughter Roni (Zohar Meidan). She disappears for days or comes home in the dead of night, avoids interaction and plays loud music – all very typical behaviours from a 17-year-old. But Yoram hasn’t the tools to address his concerns or even check on her. Things come to a head when Roni attempts suicide.
This situation forces Yoram to confront the shortcomings in their relationship, and he decides to take his daughter on a roadtrip to visit her mother’s family. It’s an overture from Yoram to Roni as well as a method of reaching out for his own sake. Family relations are fraught, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Yoram’s inaction early on points to his own panic; raising a daughter who acts like a stranger without the assistance of his departed partner. Silence defines him as he chooses not to participate in the battle of wills that Roni is trying to instigate. This is, indirectly, her own attempt at communication; getting her father’s attention ultimately requires an act of extreme violence.
A lie gets Roni in the car with him, and their early exchanges on the road see questions answered with a question; each is on the defensive. The Day After I’m Gone, then, charts a slow thaw and reconcile while Eldar quietly impresses with his choices from behind the camera.
The beautiful opening shots of a neon lit fairground ride cast against a dark sky impress, and set a tone for a standard of elegance to come. His film is clean and crisp. He sees the potential for power and even humour that lies in the cut. His work is pared-back. He doesn’t showboat but, in this very deference, an impressive confidence lies. He has good actors working with him, too. Yoram is a hard man to warm to, but through Noy’s subtle, expressive work we understand the defensive walls he has constructed around himself. Meidan, meanwhile, has such an open, expressive face, that she achieves much with just a look. Eldar lets her.
Early on in the picture, the estrangement of grief is smartly captured in a driving scene. Yoram is taking Roni home from the hospital when a herd of roused football supporters engulf the car. The carefree world outside swarms around them and the cocoon of the car becomes emphasised as the sports fans drum on the windows. The shell of the vehicle becomes the bubble of grief with Yoram and Roni trapped inside, isolated from ‘normal’ reality.
That sense of limbo follows them everywhere but the warm desert sun helps alleviate the sense of the oppressive. Still that bubble remains, and is eventually burst when Sivan (Sarit Vino-Elad) instigates an intervention and varying family members start a discourse, sharing thoughts, opinions and emotions as Yoram and Roni sit pensively listening. Roni’s precarious well-being isn’t solved by the end of The Day After I’m Gone – it’s wise enough not to view these things so simply – but breakthroughs are made. Talking isn’t everything, but it’s a start. The third act of the film feels like it does when a thunderstorm finally breaks a stifling humidity. After, things feel fresher and there’s a window for moving on.
Those beautiful images of the illuminated fairground ride return and we’re left to ponder their significance – did Roni’s mother Rachel fall from the ride? Or, is it more simply a visual metaphor for the cyclical journey of life, which goes up and down and twirls us around when we’re seemingly pinned in place…? Life, inevitably, goes on.
A quietly compassionate film that is well worth your attention, and which is so assured as to not feel like a debut at all.