RATING |

Yehezkel (Ze'ev Revach), one of the heroes of the Israeli hit dramedy The Farewell Party, fancies himself an inventor: His gizmos and gadgets clutter up the flat he shares with his wife Levana (Levana Finkelstein) in their ultra-swank Jerusalem retirement community.

He's also something of a prankster: Using his computer's mic to alter his voice, he calls one of his more senile neighbors and pretends he's God.

Funny, wry, tragic, and deeply moving, The Farewell Party is about Yehezkel's decision to play God in a far more tragic way - by assisting in the suicide of one of his closest friends, Max (Shmuel Wolf), a terminally ill cancer patient who continues to waste away at a nearby hospital.

Max's wife, Yana (Aliza Rosen) is incensed by her husband's situation.

"They are keeping him alive as though dying is a crime," Yana tells Yehezkel and Levana. "A nation of fools!"

While Levana is disturbed by the idea of assisted suicide, Yehezkel is moved by Max and Yana's impassioned plea for help.

"He wants to die of old age!" Yana says.

Co-written and co-directed by Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit, who have collaborated previously on a series of short films, The Farewell Party is structured a little like a heist film: Yehezkel begins consulting various experts at the retirement home on how best to help Max.

In a series of wonderful scenes shot through with a healthy dose of black comedy, he gathers together a team, including a retired vet and a former policeman, to tackle the problem. How should they kill Max? How can they make sure they're not caught?

True to form, Yehezkel builds a deadly-drug delivery gadget - lots of gears, pulleys, and tubes - Max can use at his discretion.

Yehezkel, who is sure he's doing the right thing, is plunged into a more intractable moral dilemma as Levana's own condition - she seems to suffer from Alzheimer's - worsens precipitously.

For all its talk of death, The Farewell Party, featuring a terrific ensemble cast, is a story about life. Always honest, graceful and funny it explores with deep compassion its characters familial and romantic relationships.

Add this to the growing list of films about the elderly looking at life on their terms.

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