Reviews

'The Farewell Party (Mita Tova)' Has a Deliciously Twisted Sense of Humor

The humorous treatment of so-called "mercy killing" will certainly provoke some viewers.


The Farewell Party

Director: Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon
Cast: Shmuel Wolf, Ze’ev Revah, Levana Finkelstein, Aliza Rosen, Yossef Karmon
Distributor: First Run Features
US Release Date: 2015-09-22

If getting old is inevitable, it’s best to do it with humor and dignity. The Farewell Party (Mita Tova) (2015) focuses on a group of friends who learn this lesson the hard way. The group is confronted with a painful proposition that puts them in a predicament when their terminally ill friend Max (Shmuel Wolf) wants them to end his life. Does the group risk imprisonment and assist in Max’s suicide, or do they adhere to Israeli law and let Max suffer?

As they try to answer this question, they quickly realize that Max has reached a pivotal point in old age when humor and dignity are out of the question. The pain of his illness is too agonizing, and the inability to control it is too humiliating. As a result, they overcome their reservations and grant Max his dying wish.

On paper, The Farewell Party looks like the most depressing movie ever made, but it’s actually quite funny. The film’s humorous treatment of so-called “mercy killing” will certainly provoke some viewers, but it doesn’t have a political point to prove like The Sea Inside (2004), the biopic about Ramón Sampedro, nor does it aim to educate viewers about assisted suicide, like the documentary How to Die in Oregon (2011).

Instead, the film tells its story in a matter-of-fact manner. Filmmakers Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon don’t judge their characters’ decisions. They simply present us with people who suffer in old age and decide to end their lives before the suffering becomes unbearable and they are unable to act autonomously.

The stand-out performers in the excellent ensemble are Ze’ev Revah as Yehezkel, a man who willingly assists in Max’s suicide, but gets angry when his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife Levana (Levana Finkelstein) wants him to end her life, Finkelstein as Levana, whose condition gets worse before our eyes, and Aliza Rosen as Max’s grieving wife, Yana. They all reside in the same retirement home in Jerusalem.

At a swift 95 minutes, the film never overstays its welcome. Granit and Maymon create a healthy balance between absurdity and realism, and dark comedy and intimate drama. The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Tobias Hochstein, but like all successful films, the substance is found in the relationships between the characters. The Farewell Party is not a pretentious cinematic experiment. It is a simple story well told.

There are memorable laugh out loud moments that save the film from solemnity. After the group assists Max in his suicide, an elderly stranger named Dubek (Yossef Karmon) asks them to do the same for his wife. Dubek threatens to turn them in to the police if they don’t. In response to Dubek’s request, Yana quips to Yehezkel, “Tell him that you’re a murderer, not a serial killer.” Dubek continues to stalk them, and the group reluctantly meets with him in a secret dark room. Dubek tells them that his wife has lung cancer... as they casually smoke their cigarettes. Clever touches like these provide the film with a deliciously twisted sense of humor.

In this regard, The Farewell Party has much in common with Talya Lavie’s Zero Motivation (2015), a satire of Israel’s military. Both films boldly challenge an Israeli audience to laugh at controversial subjects. The former tells cancer jokes, and the latter mocks a culture that takes pride in military service. Collectively, these films represent a new wave of iconoclastic filmmakers, and their rebellion is refreshing.

Like Lavie, Granit and Maymon make light of a sensitive subject without sacrificing pathos. In the process of ending other people’s pain, the characters ultimately come to terms with their own, and it’s suddenly not as comical. It's hard not to admire their ability to laugh in the face of suffering, and perhaps more courageously, to call it quits when the laughter subsides. Those who are experiencing old age will likely relate to this, and those of us who are younger can only hope that we, too, will maintain our dignity during the darkest hours before death.

Unfortunately, the DVD’s only bonus feature is a gallery of film trailers. This is disappointing, and viewers are better off renting the film from an on-demand digital streaming service for a much cheaper price. I would’ve preferred a behind-the-scenes featurette, or at least some background information on the perception of assisted suicide in Israel. How controversial is it, and what do the majority of Israelis think about it? Is the film based on a true event, or did it spring from the minds of the filmmakers? These questions are left unanswered.

7
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone can undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Music

Roots Rocker Webb Wilder Shares a "Night Without Love" (premiere + interview)

Veteran roots rocker Webb Wilder turns back the hands of time on an old favorite of his with "Night Without Love".

Film

The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.

Music

July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.

Music

With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.

Film

Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.

Music

MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.

Books

Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.

Film

Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.

Music

John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."

Books

'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.