Title—Death: A Love Story
Awards–Won the Bronze Apple at the National Educational Media Network Awards, 1999
Won a Certificate of Merit at the San Francisco International Film Festival, 1999
Won the Insight Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, 1999
Summary–This film by Michelle LeBrun chronicles her husband’s battle with liver cancer just two years after they got married.
My Thoughts–This is not a happy-go-lucky fun film to watch. Granted, most documentaries aren’t, but this one is really hard. It begins with the story of how Mel and Michelle met and got married, told through home videos and Michelle’s narration. After just two years of marriage, doctors found a tumor on Mel’s liver that was over 4 cm big. The film follows Mel and Michelle through the next six months as they deal with his disease.
I have been fortunate enough not to have a lot of experience with cancer (my grandma recently passed away from pancreatic cancer, but she decided not to go through any treatments) so this was very eye opening. Michelle had the camera with her through the whole process from the doctor appointments, phone calls to specialists, alternative treatments, and eventual liver transplant. She remarked in her narration that being behind the lens of the camera gave her something to do while all of this was going on. Her home movies chronicle the difficult choices they face like whether or not to pursue chemo and a transplant.
Their story is made so much sadder by the fact that they had so little time together. Mel was 23 years older than Michelle when they got married, but obviously they did not think they would have to do with a situation like this so soon.
Watching this film made me really think about death and the benefits and downfalls of knowing your time was near. Mel knows that there is a good chance that he will not survive, and it changes the way he thinks about life. There are times when I think that it would be nice to have some time to get my affairs in order and make sure I had time to say goodbye to all my loved ones, but most of the time I think I would rather just go fast and quick and not have a long drawn out process.
I think the thing that really sums up this documentary for me is a scene near the beginning where Mel asks Michelle, “you ever think about what would happen if I die?” And Michelle pauses for a moment and then starts to do a little dance and says, “Party…Party.” But as she’s saying it you can hear the heartbreak behind her words.
The few complaints that I had were mainly issues with video and sound quality, but that is to be expected with the equipment that was being used.
Final Verdict–The film is a very personal journey that doesn’t hold back from showing the harsh realities of dealing with cancer. It’s not something I would ever watch again, but I’m glad that I saw it.