The Day After I’m Gone is an intense exploration of how grief can affect the relations that matter most. Yoram (Menashe Noy) has been a widower for a year. He continues to bury himself in his work in an effort to ignore the pain. When his teenage daughter, Roni (Zohar Meiden) attempts suicide, Yoram’s world shatters. Unable to cope with her emotional needs on his own, the two travel into the countryside. They visit his wife’s family in an effort to achieve some much-needed closure and find some peace.
For his first feature, director Nimrod Eldar shows incredible maturity in his film-making. The Day After I’m Gone carries an unrelenting emotional heaviness that slows down time for its characters. Through his stunning use of cinematography, Eldar uses his environments to showcase the weight that plagues Yoram and Roni. For example, Eldar portrays Tel Aviv as a city drenched in (almost) eternal darkness. The light of joy seems to burn everywhere but their own home. On the other hand, it’s different as they venture out into the countryside to visit their family. Bleached and desolate landscapes point to the barrenness of their souls and relationships.
At the same time, Eldar uses the land as a picture of Yoram’s suffering. Gone also works to portray the land as a picture of a nation in trouble as well. Though brother-in-law Aryeh attempts to paint the picture of a flourishing nation, the countryside is suffering. Sinkholes, factory closures and overall desolation point to a reality that is much bleaker in scope. Aryeh’s daughters dance to a song that talks about how great life is in Israel. But the truth is far from that. Like Yorim himself, After I’m Gone depicts Israel as suffering from within.
What’s more, the title suggests that their mourning is fresh. The Day After I’m Gone actually points to the fact that suffering feels endless. For these characters, this experience feels like an inescapable and endless moment of agony, especially for Yoram. While the loss of his wife may have taken place over a year ago, his pain remains fresh. Yoram works to save the lives of animals in a nearby preserve. But he feels as though he cannot save those who matter most in his life, including Roni. For Yoram, the issue is not so much an unwillingness to help as it is a sense of overwhelming defeat. Prayers feel empty and offers of counselling feel pointless.
Yoram is lost and left in a state of eternal purgatory. He remains paralyzed by his own pain until he is finally able to admit his own brokenness. One of the best examples of this comes during a family intervention in support of Roni. There, he finally screams, “What do you want from me”?! In this moment, Yoram can make an accusation against Roni. But he finally expresses his own emotional exasperation, giving him some release. As such, his journey seems to suggest that hope can only truly begin when one admits their own helplessness.
The Day After I’m Gone is a difficult film to watch due to its emotional heaviness. But the film is worth the journey. There’s striking direction by Eldar and solid performances by his cast. These elements give the film the required weight to deal with the searing pain of love and loss.