When my dog Gertie started throwing clots in her lungs, we knew it was time to say goodbye. We held her in our arms, whispered in her ears about the lake at the cottage to inspire her dreams, and a shot given by her doctor send her off to a better place. We do for our dogs what many modern, advanced, and “civilized” countries still won’t do for its citizens.
Marie (Valeria Bertuccelli) is dying. Cancer sucks. There’s nothing the doctors can do, including giving her the compassionate end she and her husband have decided on. Or, they could give it to her, but they’re hesitating. It’s much easier to waffle when you’re not the one writhing in mind-altering pain. Of course, Marie’s got a reason to hang on as long as she can: her 3 year old son, Tomy. Whatever time she may have left, she’ll use it to write a journal so that her son may know her even when she’s gone. In it, she’s funny and witty, imparting bits of wisdom, tenderness, and personality, and a few wishes for what his life might be. Meanwhile, on Twitter, she’s nearly the opposite – sarcastic and bold, attracting a keen audience who appreciate her honesty during an impossible time.
Bertuccelli has a tall order to deliver from a hospital bed. With a son, a husband, a bouquet of friends, and a social media following, she’s the hub for grief and the receptacle of medical disappointments. This is her end of life, yet she’s still trying to be so many things to so many people. The book for her son gives her last days meaning and purpose, the perfect metaphor for the importance of time and using it well. The film isn’t sugarcoating death, nor is it dramatizing it. It’s ugly, messy, sometimes joyous, sometimes desperate. It’s not glamourous but it’s also not an excruciating sob-fest. Loosely based on a true story, Carlos Sorin’s film is about treasuring what you have while you have it.