Island

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Island 2017
"This is an unflinching portrayal and, those who are recently bereaved or are in that large group of the populace - including myself - who have ever watched a loved one succumb to terminal illness, should approach it with extreme caution."

It has long been said that only two things in life are certain, "death and taxes" - and it's fair to say that most of us don't think about either of them until we're absolutely forced to.

Steven Eastwood's contemplative film considers those people who are, due to terminal illness, given considerably longer to think about and approach death than many of us would like. Over the course of a year, he follows residents and soon-to-be residents of the Earl Mountbatten Hospice on the Isle of Wight, documenting their journey out of the world with the same lingering preciseness he uses to watch the Wightlink ferry arrive and depart, sometimes through fog, in passage from and to the mainland.

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This is an unflinching portrayal and, those who are recently bereaved or are in that large group of the populace - including myself - who have ever watched a loved one succumb to terminal illness, should approach it with extreme caution. What you bring to this film may well be reflected and magnified and that might very well not be a good thing. I personally (not a phrase I often use in reviews) found parts of it incredibly difficult to watch as it brought back sharp memories of the death of my mum. This in itself, however, is testimony to some of the essential, and I daresay universal, truths about death and the lead up to it that Eastwood captures.

These include, not just the business of death itself, as evidenced by watching Alan Hardy slip gently from here to wherever he has gone, but the busyness of it. "I need a secretary," says 40-year-old dad Jamie Gunnell, who has found it almost impossible to keep up with messages on Facebook since his terminal cancer diagnosis. Also, the enduring importance of simple pleasures, such as Jamie's watching football from his bed with his mates, Alan having his bed pushed outside for a fly cigarette or eightysomething Mary Chessell's TV, which appears to be her chief companion.

Eastwood is an artist as well as a filmmaker and the film has a sister artwork, The Interval and the Instant, exploring the same theme. Image is clearly important to him as a filmmaker but sometimes a little more chat with the people he is filming would be welcome from a documentary standpoint. He is to be commended for having struck up a genuinely intimate relationship with the subjects of his film, some of whom seem to find the camera's presence an additional comfort, and he certainly achieves his aim of widening the scope of what you might talk about when you talk about death. There's a star-rating at the top of this review, something I'm never crazy about in any event, but which seems particularly meaningless for a film like this. It's well made and has something to say but whether it is something you want to see or not will come down to your own life (and death) experience.

Reviewed on: 13 Sep 2018
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Documentary about terminally ill patients.

Director: Steven Eastwood

Year: 2017

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

Festivals:

London 2017

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