The Farewell Party

Posted on June 11, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Copyright Samuel Goldwyn 2015
Copyright Samuel Goldwyn 2015

Israeli filmmaker Sharon Mayman says that the idea for “The Farewell Party” came from the time that his boyfriend’s grandmother, age 92, was dying, and paramedics prolonged her suffering by “fighting for her life like she was 16 years old.” Her son, in frustration, said to the paramedics, “If you bring her back, you’re taking her with you.” In Israel, as everywhere else, new conversations, long overdue, are beginning about the end of life. This bittersweet story of love, friendship, and loss takes place in an assisted living facility where those who are still healthy spend a lot of time visiting those who are not. We first see Yeheskel (Ze’ev Revach) literally playing God. He is on the phone with a frail friend, pretending to be God, telling her to stay strong. And then he and his wife Levana (Levana Finkelstein) go to visit their closest friend, who is suffering terribly and dying slowly. His wife, frantic and furious, tells Yeshekel he must use his skill as an inventor to help them. And so Yeshekel does, working with a new arrival who has some experience in gentle and peaceful death — a veterinarian — and his friend, a cop.

The machine works, and they think they are done. But word has gotten out and the loved ones of people who are in great pain keep coming to Yeheskel to ask for his help, sometimes so desperate they will threaten blackmail. Levana gets increasingly uncomfortable with what they are doing until her own health issue makes her see things differently.  As she struggles with dementia, her friends respond with grace and one of the most simultaneously funny and heartwarming moments in any movie this year.  Growing old is not for sissies.  But this movie shows us that we do not be afraid to be honest about it, and to smile through our tears.

Parents should know that this movie deals with end of life issues and assisted suicide and includes some nudity and sexual situations.

Family discussion:  What can we do to make end of life issues easier for people who are dying and their families?  Do you agree with the characters in this film?

If you like this, try: “A Matter of Size”

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