Review – Bereavement doc ‘A Love That Never Dies’ is a personal, powerful depiction of grief

Poster for 2018 documentary A Love That Never Dies

Genre: Documentary
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 18th May 2018
Runtime: 126 minutes
Director: Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds
Writer: Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds
Starring: Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds, Denise Martinez, Dale Martinez, Gayle Rose, Kim Garrison, Traci Okelley, Duffy St Pierre, Denise St Pierre
Synopsis: Two grieving parents decide to confront their bereavement with a road trip across America, meeting other parents who have lost children.

 

 

There are few worse positions to be in than that of a parent who has lost their young child. It’s that most difficult of scenarios that is addressed in A Love That Never Dies. The film is a personal, poignant documentary directed by Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds as a love letter to their son Josh, who died in a road accident in 2011 while he was travelling in Vietnam. He was 22 years old. Produced in tandem with charity The Good Grief Project, this is a heartfelt and powerful journey that tackles the issue head on. It’s not just an excellent dose of cinematic emotion – it’s a genuinely important piece of work.

The film follows Jane and Jimmy as they visit the location where their son died, as well as embarking on a road trip across the USA. En route, they stop in various places in order to meet other bereaved parents and explore the different ways in which they deal with what they describe as the “total sense of unreality” that comes with losing a child. They meet the parents of numerous road accident victims, as well as those of a young boy accidentally shot in his own home and a girl who suddenly collapsed at a music concert.

All of these people have been totally and irrevocably changed by their grief. Some blame themselves for what happened, while others are hamstrung by the fact that nobody is to blame for their children’s passing. Every person has a unique perspective on the way their lives have been damaged by what has happened to their family, but this is not a film that wallows in sadness. A Love That Never Dies is also keen to show that the death of a loved one need not be the end and that there’s plenty of room for parents’ lives to change for the better. In one of the most tender moments of the documentary, it’s revealed that two of the people depicted in the film found love with each other when they met a grief support group.

This is also a film that foregrounds the morbid sense of humour that is inevitably used by some to deal with tragedy. There are moments where the audience is unsure whether it’s okay to laugh, but the movie is clearly aware of its own gallows comedy. This is most notable in a scene where ashes are scattered in a windy location, which leads to exactly the level of dark slapstick that the setup suggests. For as much as Jane and Jimmy are not consummate filmmakers, this is a documentary that knows exactly where to pitch its emotion.

That’s the overriding feeling that comes with A Love That Never Dies. When one character tells the camera that the bereaved get “a wide latitude for craziness”, it’s easy to see how that idea applies to the film. The movie dares to go in directions that a film created by people who haven’t experienced loss on this scale simply wouldn’t travel – and that lends it an enjoyable sense of wicked fun. For every moment of almost unbearable sadness, there’s a great laugh line or a heart-warming story to lighten the tone.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

I had no idea what to expect from A Love That Never Dies, given that it’s a documentary on a tough issue, put together by people with very little filmmaking experience. However, the result is a compelling documentary that combines bracing sadness and direct evocation of very tough emotions with an impressive sense of humour and moments that will warm the cockles of even the most cynical viewer.

It’s not the most elegant and slick documentary movie ever made, but A Love That Never Dies feels genuinely important. Anyone who has ever experienced grief will find comfort in its extraordinary power.

 

A Love That Never Dies is released in UK cinemas from May 18. Click here to find out where the film is screening near you.

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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