October 1, 2018  (Web Review)

End of Life

(2017) 91 min. DVD: $375. Grasshopper Film (www.grasshopperfilm.com). PPR.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Filmmakers John Bruce and Pawel Wojtasik’s provocative documentary centers on five individuals with terminal conditions who offer raw insights on how they are coping with the knowledge that their days are coming to an end (the filmmakers do not identify their subjects until the closing credits). What comes through is a powerful sense of the human spirit slowly evaporating before our eyes. One woman speaks about her friendships with iconic singers Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and embarks on a stream-of-consciousness consideration of nature’s glory and the inhumanity of war. One man, who is later identified as artist Matt Freedman, talks about his cancer treatment while creating cartoons. Another patient, who some may recognize as 1960s spiritual leader Ram Dass, offers his opinions on the dying process and what will occur when life finally exits the body. The filmmakers opt for extremely long takes when their subjects speak—or don’t (Ram Dass stares at the camera for one nine-minute stretch). But even though it might have benefited from further editing, this stylistic film still offers a compelling treatment of a difficult subject. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)