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Review: 'Farewell Party' wrestles with life and death

Tom Long
The Detroit News

'The Farewell Party" is one odd bird of a film, alternately comic and somber, confrontational and frightening, silly, sad and sweet.

Set mostly in a Jerusalem retirement home, the film revolves around Yehezkel (Ze'ev Revach) and his wife, Levana (Levana Finkelstein). Early on, their friend Yana (Aliza Rosen) asks Yehezkel — an inventor of sorts — to build a euthanasia device to help put her long-suffering, hospitalized husband out of his constant misery.

Working with a retired veterinarian (Ilan Dar), Yehezkel comes up with a mercy killing machine. And despite Levana's protests — she thinks Yehezkel is committing murder — Yana's husband is able to push a button and end his own life.

Unfortunately, word gets out in the retirement community and soon an old fellow is threatening to turn Yehezkel and friends into the police unless he helps his wife, who has terminal lung cancer (a fact that's revealed while everyone sits around smoking).

Yehezkel's moral dilemma is increased by Levana's increasing dementia, a condition he's trying his best to ignore. He's helping alleviate the suffering of others while his wife fades before his eyes.

The tone here is constantly shifting — from deep dark humor to poignancy, from end-chapter desperation to sweet acceptance. At one point, the dearly departed join in on a sudden musical number, at another friends all get naked together to show solidarity.

And yet the film faces the brutal realities of death, aging and suffering head-on much of the time. It's taking a strong stand on the morality of mercy killing, no doubt, but it also acknowledges the precious glory of life. It's a rare film that can smile while studying suffering.

'The Farewell Party'


Not rated

Running time: 95 minutes