(Written by Allison Brown)
Assisted suicide for the elderly has begun to take on its own subgenre films over the last year or two, with the release of festival dramas like Moon Manor, Day by Day, and Everything Went Fine. Some have been more successful than others. Although this tale has grown tiresome, Floor van der Meulen’s Pink Moon manages to effectively approach the story from a different direction.
Unlike the others, Jan (Johan Leysen) is not yet sick; he has simply decided that he is done with his life at a healthy age of 75. He just wants to leave the earth on his upcoming birthday before he becomes a burden to his family, and loses full functionality of his body and mind. He has purchased a powder that will allow him to painlessly pass upon consumption. Unfortunately, his adult children, Iris (Julia Akkermans) and Ivan (Eelco Smits), initially do not take this very well. Ivan’s wife, Elisabeth (Anniek Pheifer), is best able to see it from Jan’s perspective, and declares Jan is brave for taking control of his life.
Ironically, Iris works in a field that endeavors to save lives while Jan is so willing to dispose of his own. The case study she is working on, Water for Life, helps refugees “secure access to water in the driest corners in the world” and can increase life expectancy by ten years.
The siblings decide to work with their father to make a playbook of his life to cancel his prescriptions, sell his house, and take care of other matters. They place stickers on all the items in his house to claim what they wish to have. The two come up with a strategy for the deed itself where Jan will have to be alone to avoid incriminating his children. Iris and Ivan will have to wear gloves so that they can confirm their father has successfully died without leaving fingerprints. Finally, they must call a doctor, who will then call the police.
Eventually, Ivan comes to peace with Jan’s plans, but Iris takes it much harder and continues to lash out and vent to anyone who will listen. She brashly shares the information with her team at work, a prospective buyer for his home, and even a hookup at a club. Iris eventually quits her job, and moves in with her father to make the most of the little time he has left. She tries her hardest to dissuade him, even going so far as to take him on a solo trip to delay the inevitable. However, Iris must come to terms with the reality that it is not her choice to make.
Floor van der Meulen manages to make a dark topic heartwarming and amusing. I could relate to Iris’ point of view, as well as moments of immaturity, as a single twenty or thirty something. I can’t imagine I would act much differently in her shoes. Leysen, Akkermans, and Smits play well off each other’s energy, and are very convincing as a family unit. The choice to include Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” in the final minutes of the film was an impeccable fit for the soundtrack. I highly recommend Pink Moon for anyone who has a close relationship with their parents, as it just reminded me how much I miss spending time with mine given their relocation out of state.
Pink Moon decides to make the most of life when it premieres at Tribeca Film Festival on Monday, June 13th.