Movie review: 'The Day After I'm Gone'

With Menashe Noy and Zohar Meidan. Hebrew title: Hayom Sheh Ahari Lachti. 98 minutes. In Hebrew, check with theaters for subtitle information. (photo credit: ITAI MAROM/PHOTO IS COURTESY OF UNITED KING FEATURES)
With Menashe Noy and Zohar Meidan. Hebrew title: Hayom Sheh Ahari Lachti. 98 minutes. In Hebrew, check with theaters for subtitle information.
(photo credit: ITAI MAROM/PHOTO IS COURTESY OF UNITED KING FEATURES)
Although there is a stigma on talking about it, many people have a family member who has attempted or committed suicide and many others have seriously thought about it or tried to commit suicide themselves. While there have been some sensationalized teen dramas about the subject in recent years, there are few intelligent movies that deal with the aftermath of a suicide attempt.

That’s one of the reasons that the low-key, character-driven drama, The Day After I’m Gone by Nimrod Eldar, will be welcomed by audiences who enjoy thoughtful movies. The film tells the story of a widower, Yoram (Menashe Noy), a veterinarian at a wildlife park.
As the film opens, he is operating on a jaguar. When he is taking care of animals at the park, he is in control and seems relaxed. But when he leaves the operating room, he is so withdrawn, it’s as if he is barely there. When he admits to a colleague that he hasn’t seen his teenage daughter, Roni (Zohar Meidan), in two days, he insists that it’s no big deal. It’s seems as though when he isn’t dealing with animals, he simply can’t let himself see what’s right in front of his eyes, such as the fact that Roni has been understandably depressed since she lost her mother. He can’t begin to step in and deal with her emotional problems in the wake of this loss, which are made considerably more complicated by the fact that she has all the classic teen problems to boot. Although the script doesn’t spell this out, I got the impression that she was at that stage when she would have been fighting with her mother all the time. Left only with Yoram, she is faced with a vacuum that she doesn’t know how to get beyond.

After she returns, Yoram makes it clear that he was upset by her thoughtless disappearing act, but he can’t communicate anything more than that. When she takes an overdose of pills a few days later, the police have to prevent him from trying to save her himself.
But that’s all he can do for her. When she gets home from the hospital, he is nearly emotionally paralyzed, until he takes her to stay with her mother’s family in a village near the Dead Sea.

All of a sudden, the two of them are forced into daily contact with a group of relatives that it seems unlikely they ever much liked.
Some of these relatives are portrayed almost cartoonishly and while they feel familiar in an almost sitcom-like style, they aren’t particularly compelling, nor are they interesting to Roni and Yoram.

While the Dead Sea section squanders some of the dramatic tension of the first part of the movie, we never lose sight of the main characters’ struggles and we keep hoping for some kind of redemption for them.

Noy, one of Israel’s best actors, gets to show off the depth of his talent in a more complex role than he has had in years. Newcomer Meidan has a very natural presence on screen, as if she were simply playing herself. She is utterly convincing as the daughter of someone who has great trouble expressing emotion.

While it can be a virtue when a movie doesn’t rely on spelling things out, it would have been nice to get a little more sense of what makes these characters tick, especially Roni. We know she is unhappy, but we don’t know much else about her.

The title refers to a question that Yoram and Roni discuss, about what she expected would happen to him the day after she died, had her suicide attempt been successful. He talks about the mundane details he would have to take care of in a way that makes you want to yell at him, “Tell her you love her! Tell her how much you would miss her!” While this is a minimalist drama, eventually it does elicit a powerful emotional response that makes you realize what it has been like for Roni, dealing with her father’s reticence all those years, and it makes you feel for both of them.