Oh dear. This one’s a big bag of self-absorbed disappointment. Crowd-funded disappointment, at that. A story that stumbles about like a drunk adolescent, bloated with what she picked up in Jackie magazine, bad poetry and all, ruminating on the end of things. Much like the feel of this film, approaching death can bereave you of yourself, much as your future non-existence bereaves those you love. But – ugh. This film clumps up in a mass of confusion and exhausts you inside ten minutes. So get over that, grandpa: Bereave.
Here’s a thing I learnt in the home library. Sensitively, they have a copy of On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler Ross, the psychologist who made social psychology grow the fuck up and talk to real people in the 1960s. She was terrific, working with the dying to understand their hopes and fears, dreams and disappointments. To ask what they could see after the pain and beyond the veil. All of that. There’s a section in the book where two old, terminally ill folk of competing religions get to know one another. It is beautiful, and made old Jack here sob for the pain that rolls through these corridors every night. She gifts us an understanding of the emotional rollercoaster of terminal illness, those months leading up to non-existence. Some twat on a sales course may have put the Kübler Ross Curve in front of you and said it’s about change – shock, anger, etc. It’s not. It’s about the emotions that sing us to our rest.
Anyway. Bereave is a bag of cack, with occasional beautiful moments of performance from a cast on their box office uppers, but it never reaches acceptance or hope before it dies. And neither does its audience.
Malcolm McDowell plays an old grump who plans to control his death, shunting away Jane Seymour as his wife. And she still got it. Trust old jack, here. Beauty is a thing of health and bone structure, it turns out. But love? Selfishness? They’re things that should die in the furnace of years-long marriages and understanding. Not petulance and pretence, which is what happens here. The two start in static quality, staring into a mirror together, then he puts his foot in it with a cruelty that seems at once false and tangibly untrue: you are nearly beautiful. Fuck you.
That drunk adolescent rules the roost for 90 minutes of rowing, sulking, occasional violence and disparate storylines that you give up on cohering. I can’t really describe a plot that might pull you in because…you know, old Jack here got to the end of Bereave properly unsure as to what had just happened. And not in an overwhelmed-by-the-songs-and-dances kind of way. More a pissed-off-at-the-self-indulgent-rancidity kind of way. And there’s a girl on a bench who is so pretty it underlines the wrongness of it all.
There’s some pleasure to be had on fast forward if you are a fan of the stars. They are quality in and of themselves, but you know from that chat by a mirror that they or their agents will be reading the next script very very carefully.
And as for lessons for the old?
Pfft. No acceptance. No hope.