Thursday, November 15, 2012

Time of My Life -Review of a film by Nic Balthazar

Although 'death of the protagonist' continues to be the underlying theme of all the movies that I've chosen to watch in 18 KIFF , technically today's flick moves from Cancer to Multiple Scleroses. But the subject that the director Nic Balthazar chooses to explore in depth from the perspective of Mario Verstraete  (played brilliantly by Koen De Graeve) & his family an friends is that of Euthanasia.
Among the three fundamental rights available to any human being on earth  there's only one right , the 'Right to Mate (and marry)' that he/she can alter at will, legally speaking. The other two rights namely the 'Right to Birth'   and the 'Right to Death' are not under his/her control, literally and legally. On the contrary there are additional legal provisions available to the expectant mother to terminate the right to birth of the unborn child through 'abortion.' And there are laws that prevent anyone from taking his/her life that criminalizes the act of not only the person concerned but also of the doctor that assists. Socially too the stigma is a large one. Who has not heard of 'Dr. Death?'  Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who championed the rights of terminally-ill patients to die with physician's assistance, was imprisoned for 8 years for assisting personally 130 such people to die. Euthanasia is legal in Netherlands and Belgium and in some states of USA.

'Time of My Life' talks about the true story of Mario, an ambitious young man planning to make his career in politics, who was the face of the debate in Belgium before the senate & lower chamber of Parliament passed the euthanasia related bill in 2002 and Mario was one of the first to use the law. The pain and suffering from multiple scleroses had progressively increased from the  date of its diagnosis in 1995 to his death in 2002 . MS is a disease that attacks the brain and the central nervous system and Mario gradually lost control of his limbs, eyes, bowel movements and was petrified that he'll lose his brain's too making him a complete vegetable,  a notion that he couldn't even bear with. Mario's close doctor friend Thomas (played by Geert Van Lamperberg) was aghast at the idea right from the start and finally had to be excluded from the panel by Mario himself when he set about planning for the final day with other doctors. Lynn (played by Lotte Pinoy), the common childhood love-interest of both Mario and Thomas,  helps him find love , peace and happiness for the last time in his life through a sensual kiss near  a campfire that was brilliantly portrayed.
This is Nic Balthazar's second movie but he handles the controversy very sensitively, looking at it from the point of view of the long-term terminally-ill , whose rights to expression are normally the first to be subjugated during such an illness by the law, families & friends.  But whether it's the DG Beta camera or whether Nic wanted to shoot with low-light conditions,(since  the movie appears dark a lot of times specially in the indoor scenes), I do not know. But when one is looking for more light to be thrown on such a subject, one expects that literally too without the incremental melodrama that the film has got meshed in some scenes, a bit too often. Overall its a very thought-provoking film .

JAS  rating : 6 out of 10

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