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BFI London Film Festival 2012: 'Epilogue' review

★★★★☆
With Michael Haneke's Amour (2012), winner of this year's Palme d'Or, also playing at the London Film Festival, it's possible that Amir Manor's quiet drama Epilogue (2012) may be somewhat overlooked. That would be a real shame, however, as this touching tale of an octogenarian couple struggling through their disconnect with modern life in Israel is a real gem. Times are tough for Berl (Yosef Carmon) and Hayuta (Rivka Gur), an elderly couple occupying a small flat in Tel Aviv where Berl shuffles up and down their building appropriating his neighbours' discarded newspapers whilst Hayuta labours through a shower.

Their routine is interrupted when a social worker pays them a visit to assess their health and thus entitlement to financial support. After this, a decision seems to be made by Hayuta and the films tracks them as they both go about their daily tasks culminating in a frustrated confrontation when they converge back at their apartment in the evening.

"We're irrelevant" asserts Hayuta after learning that her husband has spent much of his day attempting to drum up support for a new co-operative community driven by his fears for modern Israel. Berl is stuck in the 1940s, when these imperatives were just that, but is still waving his flag in support of extinct ideologies. Perhaps to the other inhabitants of their city, these two are irrelevant, but in Epilogue we are reminded that they're actually anything but, to one another.

Not overtly shunned by the other characters that they come into contact with, the couple are, nonetheless, marginalised and misunderstood by the people around them, from shop attendants, to radio presenters and cinema ushers. It is Berl's misunderstandings that have brought the couple to where they are however. As the film unfolds we come to realise that life is not just tough due to frailty of age, but destitution. Hayuta's medicine is too expensive, as, in fact, is food. She does squander a few shekels for a trip to see Indiana Jones on the big screen; though the importance of this is always understood.

The film features two wonderful performances at its centre with the two Israeli thesps perfectly encapsulating these pitiable but utterly real characters. They shift into a whole new gear when the events of the final act come to pass and it manages to be utterly heartbreaking in exactly the way that it should be, balancing the performances and tone beautifully to avoid ever crossing into excessive sentimentality. Here's hoping that Epilogue does find an audience of some kind as it feels anything but irrelevant.

The 56th BFI London Film Festival runs from 10-21 October. For more of our LFF coverage, simply follow this link.

Ben Nicholson

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