Film Review – A Necessary Death
A Necessary Death is a documentary about a documentary. Gilbert is doing a final thesis for film school in L.A.—it’s about suicide. Gilbert believes if you don’t cross a line in filmmaking, people are going to just overlook your work. His cameraman and sound girl tell Gilbert he needs to do some legal legwork before they’ll agree to the project. Is it even legal to follow and interview someone who’s going to end their life? Are there liabilities or consequences? As it turns out, NOT stopping someone from killing themselves is not illegal—assisting them is criminal, but not simply observing.
Gilbert places an ad looking for people willing to be the subject of his documentary. He assumed this film would be difficult to find a subject; however, he ended up having 11 messages on his answering machine when he arrived home the next day. After watching some of the interviews for potential candidates, his team begins to realize this topic is more than just an “outside-of-the-box” film subject. His sound girl is having serious reservations about helping with this, but the cameraman hesitantly agrees to doing it. Also, we find out that the sound girl is an ex-girlfriend of Gilbert, which may shade some of the project.
The film school won’t condone the project, nor allow the use of the school’s name, nor allow the use of the school’s equipment, nor fund the project at all. However, if the project is completed under the guidelines of the thesis project and turned in by the deadline, it will be accepted as a final project and Gilbert will graduate. So, Gilbert’s mother remortgages her house to help fund the project. Gilbert finds a subject with a brain tumor who wants to choose the time of his death, rather than let the tumor kill him, causing immense pain. The filming goes on and is surprisingly touching for a documentary. Despite some motion-sickness-inducing hand-held shots, it is shot in a real, raw manner that works much better than a flashy Hollywood-feel with added polishing.
The film crew tries to find out what makes their subject tick. They hang out with him, go to the beach, play tennis, meet his mom (which ends up being very heart-wrenching), and stake out suicide places. Gilbert realizes the crew may be too close and wishes they would have shot things more cold than they ended up doing. In fact, their subject ends up changing some of his plans due to some complications with the crew. The experience of shooting this film apparently changed some of the crew and helped some of them grow up. The movie ends very abruptly and with a twist.
Spoiler Start: This film was acted/scripted and not actually a documentary, although very brilliantly portrayed as one. Even though it wasn’t a true documentary, it does make you think about some of these controversial topics and puts some things into perspective. Do yourself a favor and watch it. NOT a date movie, just so you know…End Spoiler.
(4 out of 5 fus)