May 29

“The Farewell Party”: Assisted Suicide

Not for nothing is this film’s poster a series of old naked people inviting you to their celebration. It’s not just an announcement of tone, it’s a warning that you might be offended. Odie Henderson,, regarding The Farewell Party

Can assisted suicide be funny? Writer/directors Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon of The Farewell Party think it can be, or at the very least tragicomic.

The plot of Israeli film The Farewell Party, via IMDB: “Residents of a retirement home build a machine for self-euthanasia in order to help their terminally ill friend, though they are faced with a series of dilemmas when rumors of the machine begin to spread.”

The Mix of Humor and Seriousness

Stephen Holden, New York Times: “…steers a careful course between humor and pathos while playing down overtly political and religious arguments for and against assisted suicide.”

Odie Henderson, “There’s an infectious joy to how the actors handle the morbid humor here, and it is never mean-spirited…(C)haracters are not without respect for the gravity of their situation, but they are also old enough to have developed a humor-laced and fearless acceptance of impending death.”

Kevin P. Sullivan, “Whereas a typical film reserves death for its darkest scenes, the end of life looms over every minute of The Farewell Party. And yet somehow this tale of retirees in Jerusalem assisting terminal patients with suicide comes off as warm and compassionate. The drama falls somewhere on the spectrum between Michael Haneke’s devastating Amour and the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies, but the result is a film that’s frank about death without leaving you cold.”

More About the Plot and Cast

Stephen Holden, New York Times:

[The] inventor, Yehezkel, a robust bear of a man (Ze’ev Revah) and his wife, Levana (Levana Finkelshtein), a couple in their 70s, are distressed by the acute suffering of their friend Max (Shmuel Wolf), who is dying of cancer and against his will is kept alive by doctors. Max’s wife, Yana (Aliza Rozen), entreats Yehezkel to assist Max, however he can, in ending his agony.

Enter Dr. Daniel (Ilan Dar), a retired veterinarian and a resident of the retirement home who has put down many animals. He agrees to help Yehezkel perfect the design of a machine that will allow Max to end his own life by pushing a button. Raffi (Rafael Tabor), a retired police officer, advises that a pretaped video from Max stating that he alone is responsible for his suicide will help avoid trouble with the law…

The Trailer

Overall Reviews

Abby Garnett, Village Voice:The Farewell Party makes drama out of right-to-die politics and asserts that just about everyone who makes it past a certain age will have to contend with the issue in one way or another.”

Odie Henderson,

I rated it highly because I was moved and amused by it, and I enjoyed the characters and the actors who superbly play them. They are afforded an agency we don’t see given to older people in mainstream cinema. They’re allowed to make tough decisions, good and bad, without interference from a younger, supposedly smarter world. They’re depicted as people full of energy and contradictions, regardless of age. For example, Dr. Daniel is not only afforded an active sexual relationship with the married, closeted Raffi, but is also a septuagenarian still hiding his homosexuality from his mother.

Brandon Judell, The Huffington Post:

The Farewell Party moves about at a brisk pace with flawless acting, majestic cinematography by Tobias Hochstein, and a warm sensibility, while convincingly arguing Schopenhauer’s point that ‘they tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice…that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person.’