A Poignant and Joyous Exploration Of Death
Alzheimer’s is a nasty disease. It’s a horrible, parasitic illness that eats away at its host from the inside out until there’s nothing left. I’ve seen this first-hand with my Grandmother, having deteriorated to become a shell of the person she once was.
The last memory I have of her is sat as a frail old woman clutching her false teeth; a far cry from the strong, bubbly woman I’d known growing up.
The thought of my Mum falling prey to this same disease is something I don’t dare think about. However, death comes for us all one way or another and every second on this planet is either a gift or a curse – depending on what way you look at things.
Having seen her Mother succumb to Alzheimer’s, filmmaker Kirsten Johnson turns her attention – and camera -across to her best friend and Father, Dick Johnson. As a way of dealing with his gradual memory loss, Kirsten films various goofy scenarios looking at how her Father could pass away.
From a heavy item dropped on his head to a construction worker accidentally clipping him with a wood plank, these comedic scenes are interspersed around the much more serious topic of memory loss and death.
Most of the documentary stitches together these segments with fly on the wall footage, ranging from doctor visits to celebrating Dick’s 86th birthday. There’s moments of humour, poignant reflection and – in the case of the last 15 minutes – some really emotionally stirring scenes that brought this reviewer to tears.
I won’t spoil anything but suffice to say the editing is excellent throughout the movie and when the final credits roll, everything comes together to create a wholly cathartic experience.
Dick Johnson Is Dead tackles the sensitive subject matter of death but does so with expert precision. Some really clever compositional techniques allow comedy and sadness to walk hand in hand, creating one of the most emotional documentaries of the year. This is another must-watch on Netflix.