In November 2001, director Kirby Dick and producer Eddie Schmidt invited terminal patients in the Kaiser Permanente hospice program to participate in a bold experiment: to take home cameras and record their last experiences on Earth. Surprisingly, many patients and families embraced the concept.
For some it was a last new endeavor, a final project slipped in under the wire. For others the dwindling number of moments left with their loved ones inspired them to record the details of a life about to end. What was captured in all cases was a startlingly personal view of what it means to die.
Their footage provides a fascinating insight into the powerful emotions of conflict, loss, and reconciliation that envelop and often overwhelm a family. We see the dying as their loved ones see them – humorous, obstinate, loving, capricious, angelic, and angry. A vivacious woman in her forties who stubbornly refuses to die clashes with the hospice staff over disappearing narcotics. A teenage girl on her deathbed whispers about the guilt she feels because her illness is causing her father so much grief. A middle-aged son struggles to keep his aging father alive long enough to hear an “I love you” that never comes.
Interweaving these stories are the experiences of the hospice staff: a team of doctors, nurses, and social workers who give care to the dying in their homes. Often the last new person to come into a patient’s life, they inevitably become close to their patients only to grieve them a few months later – a cycle of friendship and loss that repeats itself week after week, patient after patient.
THE END is an intensely personal meditation on the experience of death – both for the dying and for those who must go on living.
|Review:||The Hollywood Reporter|