On the surface, ‘Next To Her’ is about self-sacrifice. But look deeper, and this Israeli drama is a dark look at the complex desire to feel needed. Chelli is a high school security guard who devotes her life to caring for her 24-year-old disabled sister Gabby. Gabby and Chelli live together, sleep together and bathe together, their bodies intertwined. They visit the same places repeatedly – the ball pool, Gabby’s day centre, Chelli’s school – but the majority of the action takes places in their dirty, cramped flat, enhancing the claustrophobia of their relationship.
As Chelli, actress and co-screenwriter Liron Ben-Shlush accentuates the resentment her character feels for anyone else who can make her sibling happy. When she’s forced by her mother to take Gabby to day care, Chelli becomes jealous of her sister’s relationship with her carer. And her unease only deepens when it turns out the charming Zohar (Yaakov Daniel) can make Gabby smile.
This isn’t the first film to investigate the relationship between a vulnerable person and their carer. But what makes ‘Next To You’ interesting is the way it explores the line where caring becomes selfish rather than selfless, asking whether a relationship can ever be healthy when the power dynamic is this skewed.