HOT DOCS 2020: LOVE & STUFF


By: Amanda Guarragi 

“The only good thing about time running out, is that it pushes people to find the strength to show up.” 

Love & Stuff is a deeply personal documentary on motherhood and the cycle of life. Peabody Award winning filmmaker Judith Helfand, documented her terminally ill mother’s final moments, at home-hospice before she passed. The camera, helped Helfand stay connected to her mother during hard times and it was used as another form of communication. In this feature, Helfand continues the story that she began two decades ago, with Healthy Baby Girl (Sundance, Peabody 1997) through these films, Helfand adds emotional layers, by openly discussing her own traumas, addressing grief by using dark humour and reflecting on the power of family.

This feature is incredibly emotional because of the raw, human connection the viewer has with Helfand, as she goes on this journey with her mother. Helfand has normal, everyday conversations with her and integrates old home footage to show the drastic change in her mother. Her mother, like every mother, wanted what was best for her daughter and it was revealed that Judith could not bear any children of her own. So the connectivity to motherhood, was the strongest part of this feature because at a time where Judith needed her mother, to guide her through the adoption process and in raising her daughter, she had passed away.

“How do you live without your mother?” it’s a question – through our own paranoia of the endless possibilities that could happen to our mother’s – that we ask ourselves daily. How can any part of my life be possible without the woman that gave me life? How can I grow as an adult without her guiding me? It doesn’t matter what age you are, life is always hard to navigate and everyone confides in their mother or motherly figure. In Judith’s case, her baby girl Theo, was born right after her mother passed and many said it was a gift from her. How does one learn about motherhood, if they’ve never been a mother before? No one is ever prepared to look after a child and to have an entire being, be so dependent on you, it is definitely a challenge in itself.

As Judith’s mother was getting to her final months, she had become her baby to practice on, before she was able to complete the adoption. It was a humorous moment, but no one fully understands how heartbreaking it is to watch a person, who you have known your whole life to be physically strong, to lose that very part of themselves until they are in that situation themselves. I have gone through those stages with my grandparents, I have looked after them and I have struggled with understanding the aging process. How? How can we go from such strong, independent beings, to being children again? This is why my heart is always with the senior community, they have lived such full lives and then to see them in such a fragile state is hard.

I also find it quite interesting that seniors are always more open and candid discussing death, almost as if they start preparing us past a certain age. They make plenty of jokes centering around death, once they hit the age of seventy five and in a way, it’s good that they do that. What parents do their whole lives, is try to set up their children for a strong, healthy life and we don’t realize that is what they’re doing, until we have achieved our goals.

The one thing that really stood out to me in this feature, is that Judith went through all of her mother’s belongings with her and then kept everything in boxes after her passing. The emotional attachment to objects is very hard to break because of all the memories that are tied to them. I thought the individual shots of the objects Judith decided to highlight, were very important because whether it was a piano or a tube of lipstick, it reminded Judith of her mother. Instead of a memory locked in your mind, there is a physical, concrete object that you can hold in your hands, which will still have traces of your loved one.

Love & Stuff is a beautiful documentary about life and death. It shows the value of family and the power of motherhood. It handles grief with such tenderness and shows a side of seniors, that many do not see before their passing. Somehow, it is more difficult to grieve your loved one, while they are alive because you know you have to let them go eventually. It is important to remember that even if your mother is no longer with you, she taught you everything you needed to know to survive this life and as time goes on, you will incorporate what she taught you and add your own anecdotes.

 

 

Decade in Review: The Best Films From 2015

The time has come to reflect on the past ten years of filmmaking. There are many notable films that changed the course of film criticism, box office and the entire moviegoing experience.

Here are my top picks from 2015….

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
    dir. George Miller
    starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult and Zoe Kravitz

    mmfr

  2. The Lobster
    dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
    starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jenna Barden and Olivia Colman

    lobster_VOTFpoC

  3. Carol
    dir. Todd Haynes
    starring: Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara

    carol

Best Animated Feature:
Inside Out
dir. Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen
starring: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind and Diane Lane

inside out

Best Comedy:
The Night Before
dir. Jonathan Levine
starring: Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie, Lizzy Caplan, Mindy Kaling and James Franco

Joseph Gordon Levitt;Seth Rogen;Anthony Mackie

Best Franchise Film:
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
dir. Christopher McQuarrie
starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin and Ving Rhames
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***Honourable Mention*** 
Creed 

Best Horror Film:
The Invitation
dir. Karyn Kusama
starring: Logan Marshal – Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michael Huisman, Emayatzy Coriniealdi and Aiden Lovecamp

invite

Endings, Beginnings Review

This was my first Drake Doremus film and I fell in love with the way he explored the human condition with the flaws they have. This film is really special because it deals with the honesty of how complicated love and relationships can be.

Everyone believes that there is this one perfect person out there, who checks off every item, on this imaginary list we all have. However, the perfect person doesn’t exist. That’s why being logical about love and relationships will always trump how a person feels.

Doremus displays two very different relationships on screen and I understood why he chose to construct something in this way. One relationship was very natural, comfortable and safe. The other relationship was wild, passionate and all consuming. Everyone wants to find that perfect balance but our protagonist, Daphne (Shailene Woodley) has found this balance in two different people, Jack (Jamie Dornan) and Frank (Sebastian Stan)

I truly loved Jamie Dornan in this. He seemed so relaxed. He was definitely in his element and was in his most natural state, which was lovely to see. Sebastian Stan played the same wounded jerk character, but he plays it so well! Shailene Woodley also carried this film and I could feel her processing her feelings for both of these men, so that was really intriguing.

Love is difficult and it can definitely be messy if you’re not in control of it. I have definitely experienced being torn between two different ideas of people and it’s extremely hard to logically make a decision, when your heart is clouding that judgement. It’s a great screenplay and Doremus knows how to bring out the flaws of the human race, I loved this!