10:32, December 07 139 0 theguardian.com

2020-12-07 10:32:10
Here Awhile review – assisted-dying drama weighed down by cliche

”Here’s to life and all its messy complications!” Cancer is a bitch, life is a journey and other horribly pat sentiments are all given free airing in this well-meaning drama about a subject that merits a far more nuanced treatment: assisted dying. Anna (Pitch Perfect’s Anna Camp) is the prodigal daughter rejected by her father when she came out as gay, who returns to Oregon to find him dead and her brother Michael (Steven Strait) cheesed off at her long absence. But she has come back for a reason: to end her life (euthanasia is legal in the state) because she has inoperable cancer.

Of course, Anna is an artist, making her death doubly tragic. Director Tim True clings to this kind of cliche, while letting the tone vacillate between a hollow mawkishness and – with Michael’s comedy neighbour Gary (Joe Lo Truglio), who has Asperger’s, popping by as if in some Dignitas-sponsored episode of Cheers – a cheap, grief-offsetting levity. “That was some disgusting shit,” quips Anna when she finally downs the fatal dose. Caught in what seems like an endless montage of fireside philosophising and life-affirming dancefloor carpe diem, there is no dramatisation of Anna’s decline or possible ambivalence about her decision, and Michael’s resistance is dispatched indecently fast.

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Moreover, Camp is just too fresh-faced to convince as someone terminally ill. Maybe the twee indie-guitar soundtrack lulled True into such a state of wistful acquiescence that he failed to notice. The actor puts in a decent, tremulous performance and is effectively distant in the closing stretch. But the odd thing is that it’s the film’s crassest role – tech savant Gary, flirting with Simple Jack territory – that inadvertently introduces some unpredictability, and in one scene, a single touching note in an otherwise grimly mannered and ersatz film.

Here Awhile is available on Amazon Prime Video from 11 December.

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