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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that End Game is a short documentary that focuses on insightful and compassionate ways of coping with the end-of-life experience. Patients in two California facilities -- the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center and the Zen Hospice Project -- receive both medical and palliative care from professionals whose outlook and manner are exemplary. At the center of the film is Mitra, a 45-year-old wife and mother who is near the end of a long battle with cancer. Her husband and her mother, both devoted to her, are at her side and are well served by the filmmakers as they finally say good-bye. Filled with messages that will surely provide inspiration and comfort to mature audiences, the film recognizes the fact that we humans are "wired to run away from death" and advocates taking a leap of faith as we "make friends with death." Its notions are not simplistic, not airy platitudes, but clear insights that will inspire significant discussion for families.
What's the story?
The objective of END GAME is to portray a natural, intimate, and humane way of death. Substantial screen time is given to University of California, San Francisco Medical Center's cancer patient Mitra, a 45-year-old woman, along with Hamid, her husband, and Vaji, her mother, as Mitra's death approaches. The film closely observes the staff of professionals, including lead doctor Dr. Steve Pantilant, who care for her, as Mitra's final days reveal the myriad emotions that accompany the woman's death. At the Zen Hospice Project, filmmakers mark the last months in the life of Pat Harris, another cancer patient. Dr. B.J. Miller, founder of the Zen Project, is profiled as well. His personal story, coming back from a tragic accident that almost cost him his life, helps to deliver profound messages about how perspective and attitude alter our life journey. Miller's mission -- to reclaim the end of life as a human experience instead of a medical one -- is clearly illustrated in the scenes at his facility.
Is it any good?
In a mere 40 minutes, award-winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman manage to deliver profound messages about how perspective and attitude alter our life journey. As in two other of their most acclaimed films, The Celluloid Closet and Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, very personal, singular stories illuminate a universe of human experience. Bravo to Mitra and her family and Pat Harris for allowing us to witness such intimate moments in their lives. Their generosity was remarkable.
For folks who hesitate to watch a movie about death and dying, End Game will be a timely revelation. The film cannot help but inform, inspire, and ultimately soothe the ever-present fears of young and old who struggle to accept that life and death are both requisite elements of nature's miracle.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the various purposes of documentary filmmaking: to entertain, persuade, and/or inspire. Into which category(ies) does End Game fall? What do you think the filmmakers' intention was when they made this film?
This film shows how Dr. B.J. Miller's own devastating experience informed his life choices. How is this an example of the adage "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"? Think of a situation in which a negative experience inspired you to do something positive.
What does this movie mean by the statement "Get used to holding the mystery, which is death"? How can that notion ease our perceptions of death as a scary event that's beyond our control?
Which character strengths does the documentary promote?
- On DVD or streaming: May 4, 2018
- Cast: Mitra, B.J. Miller, Pat Harris
- Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Science and Nature
- Character Strengths: Communication, Compassion, Courage, Empathy, Gratitude, Perseverance
- Run time: 40 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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