On the surface, A Love That Never Dies could be interpreted simply as two grieving parents (Jimmy Edmonds and Jane Harris) mourning the loss of their son, who died in a road accident whilst holidaying in Vietnam, by using documentary to express and cope with an indescribable pain that no parent should ever have to go through. However, as you continue watching, other thematic layers start to unravel and the film raises serious questions about the grieving process in the digital age.
Upon first glance, I wondered who the target demographic was for this documentary. For anyone that has children, the thought of watching a film about loss and death didn’t seem to sit well with me – why would you watch a thought provoking, tear-jerker about real people losing the people closest to them? I tend to believe that mourning is a personal process that people journey through at their own speed – that losing someone never goes away completely. So why would you watch a film that would trigger memories of someone you’ve lost yourself? The old adage that time heals all wounds is a well intended phrase, as if people are stating that you should just sit back and in time the feeling of sadness, anger, yearning, guilt and fear will subside somehow, and will fade. But how long is ‘some time?’ Six months? A year? Five years? Maybe a more apt phrase should be: ‘It’s what you do with the time that heals.’ And it seems that Jimmy and Jane have been using the time to make A Love That Never Dies – a way for them to express their pain but also show the world that there are other people out there going through a similar journey. You perceive an inherent sense that the film in itself is a process of healing for them, with a simple message that needs to be sent out: whatever reasoning, technique, meditation or medication you’re using to help you deal with loss, talking about it and finding other people that have experienced the same type of tragedy can be cathartic – that something inherently good can be found by embracing grief, accepting it, raging against it, but overall changing because of it.
Jimmy and Jane travel across the US and meet other bereaved parents, each telling their own story. This is where it struck me that we live in a day and age where grieving is even harder to go through as we have such a colossal amount of digital material now that social media, smart phones, videos and texts that create an eerie digital mausoleum for the deceased. The winner of our EXIT EARTH competition, Rachel Connor, used this premise with ‘How to Curate a Life,’ a story about a family dealing with their own sorrow and how death can be extrapolated for businesses in the digital age.
There’s a scene where Jimmy photoshops images of his son onto other pictures that create a sense of unease, because with access to videos on the internet and photos from your Facebook account, it may be comforting to see your loved ones in a perpetual state of online preservation, but also raises the question an all-consuming addiction. But perhaps the very fact that I felt uncomfortable watching is precisely the aim of what Jimmy and Jane want to achieve with the documentary – that although upsetting and tragic, there shouldn’t be any taboos with how people deal with their grief.
Another segment in question concerns a family from America. They lost their fourteen-year old son due to an accident with a fire arm in the home. He was playing with a gun and didn’t realise that there was a bullet in the chamber. My initial reaction was of anger; accidental shooting death statistics can be a sobering reminder of mortality, but they are important in promoting prevention measures. For those families dealing with the death of a loved one from an accidental shooting, statistics can seem cold and unfeeling. But it’s important to put these statistics in front of others because they give some perspective on how big an issue accidental shooting deaths really are in the United States. From 2006-2016, almost 6,885 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings (from www.aftermath.com). That’s 6, 885 families affected by something that could have been easily prevented by simply not owning a firearm.
But then I realised that this family have already blamed themselves, that they’ve already internalised the agony of the ‘what if?’ scenario.
There is a degree of catharsis at the end of A Love That Never Dies, and the documentary remains a moving tribute to those who lost their lives at an early age, but you may have to brace yourselves for a punishing look at mortality and be in the right frame of mind before watching.
REVIEW BY ANTHONY SELF
From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in. But don’t despair. Bulldoze the borders. Conquer freedom, not fear. EXIT EARTH explores all life – past, present, or future – on, or off – this beautiful, yet fragile, world of ours. Final embraces beneath a sky of flames. Tears of joy aboard a sinking ship. Laughter in a lonely land. Dystopian or utopian, realist or fantasy, horror or sci-fi, EXIT EARTH is yours to conquer.
EXIT EARTH includes the short stories of all fourteen finalists of the STORGY EXIT EARTH Short Story Competition, as judged by critically acclaimed author Diane Cook (Man vs. Nature) and additional stories by award winning authors M R Cary (The Girl With All The Gifts), Toby Litt (Corpsing), James Miller (Lost Boys), Courttia Newland (A Book of Blues), and David James Poissant (The Heaven of Animals), and exclusive artwork by Amie Dearlove, HarlotVonCharlotte, CrapPanther, and cover design by Rob Pearce.
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