A woman diagnosed with terminal lung cancer gathers her three dearest friends together to make the most of the time she has left.
Contemporary World Cinema
Mijke de Jong
What does it mean to die well? How does one go about being a good friend to someone who is dying? These questions — so difficult to answer — are courageously grappled with in Dutch director Mijke de Jong's challenging and unspeakably affecting hybrid film Frailer. Prompted by the news of her friend Leonoor Pauw's fatal illness, de Jong uses a hint of artifice and a lot of honesty to explore the dizzying range of ideas and emotions that emerge as Pauw and her three best friends keep one another company during Pauw's final years.
Upon confirmation that her lung cancer is terminal, Mouse (Pauw) gathers her dear friends Ted (Marnie Blok), Carlos (Adelheid Roosen), and Lian (Lieneke le Roux) around her. Together the women come up with strategies to make the best of the time Mouse has left. They garden and dance, and share food, drinks and prescription marijuana. Taking short trips to spectacular locales, they experience sudden emotional flare-ups along the way, revealing frustrations over the hidden hierarchies of their friendships.
Their conversations cover just about every topic imaginable: family, art-making, the ebb and flow of sexual desire, their love and respect for each other, and the hereafter — or lack thereof. More radically, they attempt an exercise in which they all lie down in matching caskets, wearing matching red dresses with butterfly patterns. (Just one of the film's many dramatic uses of the colour red, perhaps an homage to Bergman's Cries and Whispers, another wrenching film in which women gather around a dying loved one.)
Gutsy, captivating and shot through with truths about the joy and turmoil of preparing for irrevocable loss while struggling to live in the moment, Frailer's brave blend of reality and fiction is not just moving — it's moving in a way unlike any film you've seen. And it is our great honour to share it with you.