Release Date: TBD
Director: Marco Bellocchio
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 6/10
Euthanasia. The right to die. It can certainly be a very sensitive issue. Is it murder to allow someone to die with dignity? Is it cruel and unusual punishment to allow someone to continue in a condition, such as full paralysis, if it’s against their wishes? Who has the right to decide? The person? The family? The law? Religion says only God can decide one’s fate. What if you don’t believe in God or any deity for that matter, what then? It’s a complex issue that has gone unnoticed by generations of filmmakers. Clint Eastwood with Million Dollar Baby, Milos Forman with Cuckoo’s Nest, Haneke with Amour, even Ed Zwick with The Last Samurai. Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty tackles the issue from all fronts.
In Italy a case has made national headlines and is coming to a head. Eluana Englaro has spent the last 17 years in a vegetative state. A vote is about to go before the senate to decide her fate. Her father wishes to let her die but the Prime Minister wants her to live. The film follows multiple story arcs over the course of several days leading up to final judgment. A young doctor is doing what he can to save a suicidal, meth patient. A politician, who has personal experience with the issue at hand, struggles with the decision of which side to choose. His daughter, a devout religious woman, is at odds with her father because she knows where he’s leaning. A mother searches for answers as her own daughter lies in a coma.
While the Englaro case is a true story the rest of the film is a melodramatic pastiche that attempts to address all angles. Bellocchio takes the middle ground by showing the pros and cons of giving someone the right to die. The various storylines can come off a bit heavy handed at times as it drives the points home. Despite this it is a well directed and acted film. Silvio Berlusconi and Alba Rohrwacher are the stand outs as the father and daughter. They are at odds because of something he did that she has never been able to forgive him for. Pier Giorgio Bellocchio and Maya Sansa are also pretty good as the doctor and junkie.
Perhaps because the film doesn’t focus on one particular story arc it doesn’t resonate as much as say Haneke’s Amour did. Characters are developed just enough so that we at least know who they are and what they’re thinking. While everything is wrapped up rather neatly in the end it doesn’t stay with you. That closing shot of Eastwood in the café at the end of Million Dollar Baby is still haunting to this day. You don’t get a sense that anyone in the film, even the senator, has truly gone through this. It’s certainly a case of walking in one’s shoes and it’s not a pair of shoes anyone would like to fill. It’s a decent film but it has no real impact once it has concluded.