Whilst it’s not something many of us like to think about, death is – ultimately – the one thing that unites us all as humans.
As with so many things in life, film and television allow us to explore this difficult topic and get us thinking about how the stories we are watching can relate to our own lives.
With that in mind, we have come up with a few suggestions for what to watch if you are interested in seeing some movies or TV shows which treat this subject with genuine sensitivity.
Where else could we start but with Up? Widely regarded as one of the finest movies Disney Pixar has ever produced – and the bar for that is set pretty high! – this truly heart-warming tale follows the story of Carl, an elderly man who is struggling to come to terms with the loss of his wife.
Although large parts of it are filled with action and adventure, it is a montage in its opening minutes for which Up is best loved and most remembered.
The montage, which contains no dialogue and is less than three minutes long, begins on Carl and his wife Ellie’s wedding day and shows us brief glimpses of their many years together (including one truly heart-breaking sequence).
Hailed as an instant classic upon its release, Up remains one of the most popular and accessible films to have ever dealt with the difficult but important issue of death. An animated feature, it was also praised for sensitively discussing with the audience how it is more than possible to find beauty and adventure in life even when the person we love the most has to say goodbye.
P.S. I Love You (2007)
Another film which addresses the tricky issue of losing the one we hold most dear is P.S. I Love You, and we were very grateful to Sean – CEO of Back to the Movies – for sharing his thoughts on why it should be compulsory viewing for anyone looking for an idea of what life can be like for those of us left behind after a loved one passes away.
“Whilst the film deals with each step of the grieving process towards moving on, the film also balances and focuses on what happens afterwards – the struggles, the emotions and how starting a new life doesn’t always mean forgetting the people you’ve loved and lost.
“Before Gerry (played by Gerard Butler) passes away in the film, he leaves breadcrumbs in the form of letters in his final days to help guide Holly (played by Hilary Swank) through her grief. Whilst Gerry is gone, these letters provide comfort and guidance as though he’s right there beside her every step of the way, even in death.”
Six Feet Under (2001 – 2005)
Finally, we felt we had to switch from the big to the small screen to discuss one of the finest conceived and best written television series of all time.
Six Feet Under, which aired for five seasons on HBO between 2001 and 2005, was set in the home of a family-run firm of funeral directors, Fisher & Sons. Every episode of the show deals extensively with both the professional and personal aspects of the Fishers’ lives – from helping grieving clients buy a memorial gravestone or coffin for their loved ones, to dealing with their own grief – and manages to combine humour, drama and tragedy in a way that few productions have done before or since.
Every episode of Six Feet Under begins with a so-called ‘cold opening’, which shows how the person (or people) Fisher & Sons will be arranging the funeral for that week met their end. These deaths, like the series itself, range in nature from the darkly comic and ridiculous to the genuinely moving.
This show is also widely regarded as having one of the finest ever finales to a series and we can assure you that it is well worth sticking with it right to the end, even if we may feel that some of the situations our favourite characters find themselves in are upsetting – the pay-off in the last episode is well worth it!