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21 Sep

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”
— Thomas Aquinas

America is suffering from an epidemic of loneliness. Cigna, a health care provider, conducted a large-scale survey and the findings reveal that nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone, 27% say they rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them, and 20% say they rarely or never feel close to people or have anyone to talk with. The combined bane of loneliness and lack of friends diminishes lives and causes much heartbreak.

The Friend is a warm, wise, and emotionally rich drama covering the close relationship between three adults as they struggle to keep alive the bonds of friendship they have forged over the years. They model what it takes to banish loneliness and have meaningful connections through good and bad times.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite directs the film, which is based on a true Esquire magazine article written by Matthew Teague and adapted for the screen by Brad Ingelsby. In order to catch the unpredictable and improvisatory nature of lives, the screenwriter jumps and skips back and forward over a 13 year-period. Our commentary follows a traditional narrative line.

Dane (Jason Segel in a smashing performance) is a quiet, laid-back, individualist who, unlike his peers, refuses to be animated by ambition or the need for financial success and fame. While working at a New Orleans theatre, he meets an actress, Nicole (Dakota Johnson), and asks her out on a date. She is married, however, so they become friends.

Later Dane meets her husband Matt (Casey Affleck), a journalist who has big dreams of becoming a globe-hopping correspondent. The two men couldn’t be more different, but they become good friends too. Matt and Nicole have two daughters (Isabella Kai and Violet McGraw), and Dane relates well to them since he has a playful and humorous side.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
–Henri J. M. Nouwen

When Nicole begins a hard-fought battle with cancer, Dane offers to move in with them and help out in any way that he can. This ethical choice means leaving his job and his girlfriend for an indefinite stay. He and Matt juggle caregiving responsibilities, both for Nicole and the two children.

“I have learned that friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest, it’s about who came and never left your side.”
— Yolanda Hadid

Lest anyone think that The Friend is just another melodrama about dying and death, let us bring to the fore that this film is filled with many authentic moments. The characters share moments of pain, abandonment, confusion, and eventually sadness and grief. The two men cope as best they can, proving that their friendship is strong enough to endure what might cause others to crumble into a thousand pieces.

The Friend does not slight the role of loneliness in Matt and Nicole’s marriage and in Dane’s life. It doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulty of maintaining a friendship through incredibly hard times. We were relieved when Matt is finally able to release enough control to call in a hospice nurse (Cherry Jones) to guide them through Nicole’s final days.

This kind of illness and death will not happen to all of us. This kind of caregiving will not be required by all of us. But the movie isn’t titled “Nicole’s Dying.” It’s called The Friend because the need for friendship is universal.

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21 Sep

This documentary directed by Max Powers focuses on five members from the Bowery Slam Poetry Club who are competing in the National Poetry Slam in 2016. These African-American, Afro-Hispanic, and queer youth put a lot of energy into their poetic expressions during the ten weeks leading up to the big event in Atlanta, Georgia.

Their coach, Lauren Whitehead, tells them not to try to be nice. Instead, she encourages them to dig deep into their own suffering, anguish, pain, and anger resulting from rape, child molestation, racism, and police brutality. It turns out to be exhilarating for them to speak truth to power as they funnel their fears and rage into ranting.

At one point, Lauren advises them, “The living experience is an archive and we can access it if we’re bold and brave enough to go there.” This wise counsel proves to be a passport to a wide range of memories and feelings which speak to those attending the National Poetry Slam Event. Here poetry as therapy takes its rightful place alongside poetry as prophesy.

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13 Sep

“Stories are what make us,” says a young narrator at the start of André Øvredal’s adaptation of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. “Stories can hurt, stories can heal.” And the power of stories to create reality, transform reality, and repair reality is the foundation of this creepily clever commentary on both social and individual evils. While its gruesome charms might not be to all tastes, this relatively tame take on horror tropes, with its sly skewering of our current political climate and its mostly gentle thrills, is the perfect frightfest for teens and parents to enjoy together.

A certain generation grew up feasting on Alvin Schwartz’s trilogy of terrifying story collections, and copies have been banned from school libraries and traded between sneaky students for years. Now, decades after Schwartz stopped churning out new additions, Øvredal has taken a handful of these stories and whipped them up into slightly more modern versions of themselves. He has connected them all with a framing device that adds gravity to the proceedings, offering a spirited moral that transcends cheap jump scares and celebrates the place of storytelling in our collective consciousness.

The setup is classic: It’s 1968 and teen outcasts Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush), and Chuck (Austin Zajur) have some revenge plans in store for Halloween, a chance to get back at bully Tommy (Austin Abrams), who has relentlessly tormented them. Their plan takes some intended and unintended turns, and they escape from Tommy, crossing paths with a mysterious teen drifter, Ramon (Michael Garza). The group seeks refuge inside the local haunted house, a storied site of doom once owned by the Bellows family, whose recluse daughter Sarah is rumored to have crafted terrifying stories that she would tell to children who would later meet grisly ends. Once inside, Stella, who is an aspiring storyteller herself, finds Sarah’s old book of stories and takes it home, where the book starts filling in with new stories that spell out danger for everyone connected to Stella.

Sarah’s book of stories creates a compelling structure on which to hang well-known tales from Schwartz’s oeuvre. To those who grew up devouring these terrifying tales, the monsters from “Harold,” “The Big Toe,” “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker!,” “The Red Spot,” and others will be simultaneously familiar and newly frightening in the flesh. As the book fills with bloody letters and Stella’s network of friends and foes begin to fall victim to the legends of Sarah’s imagination, Stella fights to get the book back to its hiding place and to solve the unresolved mysteries of Sarah’s tortured existence once and for all.

Around these mythological monstrosities lurk the real terrors of 1968. Richard Nixon is about to be elected president and the Vietnam War looms in the background, a deadly possibility for many of the teens of draft age. Øvredal allows these historical horrors to quietly permeate the film, underlining the message that stories that hurt and heal not only exist in fictional fantasy, but also in daily life. These parallels offer ample opportunity for discussion about the power of fear to erect destructive or creative tendencies in the human psyche. The allegorical elements never feel forced, a surprisingly deep feat for an otherwise frenetically fun genre film.

For good and ill, stories really are what make us. We tell ourselves stories in order to live and heal, while certain stories we tell ourselves, collectively and individually, continue to hurt, silence, or kill us. Sarah’s stories have both protected her and paralyzed her, and the film’s ending invites viewers to breathe into the fact that some stories should be dismissed in order to allow new stories to bloom. It’s a spiritual message that bears repeating, just as the best, most transformative stories do.

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12 Sep

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, fear of death ranks second on the list of top phobias in the U.S. On average, 6,800 Americans die every day, yet talking about death remains “the last taboo.” It’s probably not surprising that so many people avoid conversations about the end of life when they see it as enmeshed in anxiety and mystery.

Year ago, Bernard Crettaz, a Swiss sociologist, hosted a “Death Café” where a group of strangers gathered in a café around tea or coffee and talked about death for a few hours. That idea has turned into a global movement that has given thousands of people the opportunity to explore the deep questions surrounding death in an honest, open-ended, and non-judgmental fashion.

If you want to host your own version of a Death Café, we have the perfect resource for you, a one-hour documentary streaming on HBO. This poignant and enlightening film directed by Perry Peltz and Matthew O’Neill explores how husbands and wives, family and friends are choosing creative and emotional end-of-life rituals which speak to the needs, hopes, and dreams of their loved ones. Those who are dying and those who are preparing to grieve them want to play a larger role in what takes place as they die and what happens to their bodies afterwards.

Alternate Endings credits the Baby Boom generation for shifting the death process from traditional services in funeral homes to cremation. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), cremations accounted for 50.2 percent of funerals in 2016. The $16 billion a year funeral industry is having to change its standard operating procedures. The documentary reveals some creative alternatives to burials of bodies or ashes.

Burial in a Reef Ball at the Bottom of the Sea
Leila Johnson states that her deceased father “loved the ocean and spent his whole life on the water.” She spent a lot of time looking for a genuine and meaningful way to honor him. She rejoiced coming across “Memorial Reef International.” Her father’s ashes were put into a reef ball which was then deposited on the ocean floor to help offset the decline of reefs. Johnson puts on a scuba suit and bids her father goodbye for the last time knowing in her heart that she did right for him.

A Green Burial
Eco-friendly burial options are becoming more popular; 54% of Americans are considering a green burial, and 72% of cemeteries are reporting an increased demand. Barbara Jean Smith has terminal pancreatic cancer. Having been a nature lover all of her life, she chooses a green burial where her family and friends wash her dead body, no toxic embalming fluids are used, and her remains are wrapped in biodegradable cloth, and buried in a plot she has chosen herself. A tree is then planted over her, fulfilling her desire to have her flesh give nutrients back to the earth.

Celebrations
Some choose a celebration as a way to honor a life over a memorial or funeral service. Sara Snider Green says that her father loved the idea of space travel. She wants to give him that experience having his ashes sent into space on a NASA rocket. Her family joins 45 other families in New Mexico to watch as the cremated remains of their loved ones lift off to a chorus of cheers.

Emily and Ryan Matthias’s five-year-old son Garrett has died of cancer. He had told them that he didn’t want them to have a party, not a funeral, for him. They invite family, friends, and children to a happy event replete with superheroes, fantasy figures, a bouncy house, snow cones, and games he enjoyed.

A Living Wake with Family and Friends
In the television series The Wonder Years, Kevin Arnold says, “Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall at your own funeral service? It would be so moving to hear what relatives and friends have to say about us. In the ritual of a living wake, a dying person expresses his or her gratitude for the love and joy he or she has received. But the dominant pulse of the event is the celebration of the person’s life by the gathered community who enjoy a party-like atmosphere as they talk about what they love in the person. Here we are treated to stories about Guadalupe Cuevas, a humble Mexican worker with a very large and loving family.

Medical Aid-in-Dying
Alternate Endings fulfils its intention of helping viewers see dying as something which can be dignified, personal, expressive, creative, and meaningful. The last drama is by far the most dramatic as Dick Shannon, a terminally ill man, takes charge of his death by having a doctor prescribe an “aid-in dying medication.” He then builds his own coffin before hosting a party in his home where family and friends are all present when he consumes the medicine and dies.

Shannon’s legacy is conveyed in these words:

“My observation about the way people die, at least in America, is they …
are not allowed the opportunity to be part of the process. The part that bothers me … is not being allowed to be part of that process. It’s my death. Don’t tell me what I have to do.”

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12 Sep

Before delving into fantasy, Issa López’s Tigers Are Not Afraid begins with two hard facts, emblazoned across the screen: Nearly 200,000 people have disappeared in Mexico over the last decade, and there is no accounting for how many children have been left behind by those disappeared. From there, López spins the harrowing tale of five of these children, injecting plenty of grim whimsy into a film that stylistically verges on cinema verité. The push and pull of horrific reality combined with horrific reverie pushes Tigers Are Not Afraid into a genre-defying realm that adds to its effectiveness as a surprisingly spiritual analysis of the effects of trauma on young minds and a celebration of the sometimes naively determined will that helps the young to survive such horrors.

The film’s unnamed Mexican town setting immediately sets the stage for violence. Students sit in a classroom, intently listening to their teacher, and gunshots ring out, sending them all to the floor. As young Estrella (Paola Lara) shivers facedown, the teacher hands her three pieces of chalk, stating that they will offer her three wishes. When Estrella returns home, she seems to immediately need to use one, because her single mother is nowhere to be found; the only trace of her is a blotch of red blood on a piece of hanging clothing. The original title of the film means “They return,” and Estrella’s first wish is for her missing mother to come back to her. And any common fan of horror will predict that, when the dead come back to life, they are rarely in a comfortingly normal form.


Starting with this first combination of disturbingly real violence (the gunshots are from a neighborhood gang, the Huascas, who terrorize the town’s inhabitants) and fantastical fancy (Estrella’s mother now haunts as a croaky-voiced, grisly ghost), López continues to paint connections between the gruesome realities faced by abandoned children in a ghost-town war zone, and the dreamlike ways those same children might concoct to deal with the onslaught of traumatic fear and bloodshed.

Estrella seeks out the companionship of a small, young gang of lost boys, immediately calling to mind a Peter Pan and Wendy dynamic, wherein Estrella becomes caretaker of those sorely in need of a mother, even as she suffers from her own loss. These foulmouthed street kids are all on the run from their own losses, and the leader Shine (Juan Ramón López) has stolen a gun and a cellphone from one of the Huascas members, putting the entire scrappy group, including Tucsi (Hanssel Casillas), Pop (Rodrigo Cortés), and the heartbreakingly adorable Morro (Nery Arredondo) in a precarious position. There is video captured on the stolen phone that will affect the futures of Shine, Estrella, and the rest of their small team, and the Huascas, along with the particularly slickly brutish politician El Chino (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), will seemingly stop at nothing to get the phone and footage back.

As the young people run from the Huascas and attempt to find moments of levity and love to sustain them, López fills the world around them with horrific and fantastical images that often make potent commentary on the film’s real horrors. There are sketches of a tiger that pulses with life, a potent representation of the strength that Estrella, Shine, and their friends must muster in order to survive. There are also a stuffed animal brought to life who points toward the crucial escape route at the exact right moment, a chalk line that wards off danger at the perfect time, a tiny dragon-like creature that flies from the phone and signals a sense of freedom, a stream of red blood that follows the youngsters and tends to point in the direction of each terrible violent act about to transpire, and reanimated ghostly, ghastly creatures wrapped in plastic who appear to embody all those souls who have been disappeared in a single flash of cruelty.

Tigers Are Not Afraid seeks to interrogate horror on multiple levels, while drawing the audience’s attention to an urgent reality that needs addressing. The pain and danger it presents is relentless and unforgiving, and López’s message is clear: The children at the story’s center will never outrun their trauma; they can only transform it into a new kind of collective power and fight the flesh and blood demons that have killed their current realities with new visions for their own future. It is a naive hope, one that world-weary adults might find troublingly fantastical. But for children living so desperately in the depths of Hell, it is a hope that propels them toward the only thing they have left, a manifestation of the nascent, ferocious strength that lies inside them, just waiting to be released.

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12 Sep

The election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States pushed some to naively declare that the country was entering a “post-racial” era. But racism and the continuing legacies of colonialism and white supremacy have roots too deep, too systematic, and too systemic to be erased with one election and presidential tenure, and the country has now witnessed the fear and hate that can rise to the surface when the historically common order of things is upset. Obama’s election offered a glimmer of hope, but hope, without continued collective work, does not dismantle an entire system. In a still unjust, still racist reality, where young black people are often only allowed one of two opposing paths, to be celebrated as model heroes or managed as potential menaces, growing up black is, at best, exhausting, and, at worst, treacherous.

Julius Onah’s Luce, based on J.C. Lee’s 2013 play, interrogates this conundrum in devastating detail, succeeding as both a searing indictment of race, identity, and class assumptions in the United States, as well as a truly thrilling piece of incendiary art. Filled with top-notch performances, most notably from Kelvin Harrison, Jr. as the titular hero (or antihero, as the plot unravels), Luce presents a complicated argument in dauntingly nuanced style, leaving questions in its wake that should preoccupy anyone who cares about how society nurtures its youth, particularly those caught in the blindspots of a country that seems to only want some black lives to truly matter.

Luce Edgar is a star. Adopted at age seven by his self-consciously woke white parents (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth), and pulled out of a life as a child soldier in war-riddled Eritrea, Luce has been raised from problem child to model teenager. He regularly flashes a winning smile as he racks up sports wins, public speaking accolades, and the admiration of everyone in his Virginia high school orbit. Teachers joke about cloning him, his parents celebrate his hardwon successes in therapy, and they all participate in forcefully molding him into a fresh-faced symbol of strong-willed perseverance and articulate self-possession.

With all Luce has going for him, and with all the well-mannered promise he displays, the presence of stern black teacher Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer) serves as a constant buzzkill. She refuses to be charmed by his usual smoothness, instead pushing Luce further, demanding he be something even more promising than he is, even as Luce remains unable to pinpoint her motivation. There is also growing suspicion in the student body. Luce is called “Obama” at one point and “Mandela” at another, revealing that his fellow classmates might have some latent resentment brewing beneath their admiration. Has Luce been propped up, at the expense of others, and if so, why does he get all the support, while others are allowed and even encouraged to flounder?

Trouble begins when Ms. Wilson objects to Luce’s essay written in the violent voice of controversial Marxist revolutionary Frantz Fanon, and then finds a bag of illegal fireworks in his locker, prompting a string of unanswered questions and growing tensions that threaten to mar the perfect life that Luce’s parents have built for him. And an onslaught of skewed truths begin to build. Luce attempts to hold together the image he’s created, Ms. Wilson demands deeper exploration of his inner workings, and his parents struggle to maintain their fragile vision. As more disturbing complications pile on, including a murky suggestion of sexual violence from an ex-girlfriend (Andrea Bang), the simple answers and naive hopes on which each character has built their worldviews begin to crumble.

Luce is a deft, dense conversation starter and its powerful plotting has the potential to force viewers to excavate disturbing depths within their own assumptions, prejudices, and self-preserving fantasies. It is an essential addition to the growing number of films that seek to question not only the United States’ relationship with racism, but how foolishly that relationship has often been reflected in sugar-coated films that fail to ask real, probing questions about the spiritual rot at the center of our racial divisions. The future of a country is at stake, a country that continues to hide behind half-measures and empty platitudes, and Luce holds up a shattered mirror whose shards beg to be addressed with more than pat, post-racial happy endings.

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12 Sep

We fill our house with inanimate objects that please us at first but over time are ignored or unused. These things then suffer a second insult — they are not serviced, picked up or cleaned. Some observers have noticed that low maintenance or the long neglect of our once precious objects can lead to their rebellion.

Larry Dossey, a bestselling physician who has explored in many of his books the mysterious dimensions of healing, medicine, and human consciousness, uses the term “thing apartheid” to describe the ways in which inanimate objects in Western culture are not accorded the same respect as living, sensate organisms. Depth psychologist James Hillman in Kinds of Power observes: “Objects have their own personalities that ask for attention. Treating things as if they had souls, carefully, with good manners — that’s quality service. … A theology of immanence means treating each thing … as if it were alive, requiring what each living thing requires above all else: careful attention to its properties, their specific qualities. … Notice differences, pay attention, give respect (re-spect = look again). Notice what is right under your nose, at your fingertips, and attens to it as it asks, according to its needs.”

Peter Lucian (Peter Sarsgaard), the main character in The Sound of Silence, gets this point of view. He is doing research on how things, from a household toaster to the city of New York where he lives, are alive. Specifically, they make sounds. He moves through the city with his tuning forks paying attention to the distinctive notes of each area. Often he wears ear plugs to reduce the effects of the heavy-duty noise pollution on the streets. He then retreats to his basement apartment in an old bomb shelter where he has a large map on which he is noting the aural signatures of different neighborhoods.

In addition to these scientific studies, Peter works as a “house tuner.” His clients report a mental, physical, or emotional symptom. He goes to their homes, listens to the sounds in each room, and comes up with a sound prescription. For example, one man needs to make an adjustment on the sound of his radiator. Although very out-of-the-box, this work has attracted media attention. Another researcher (Tony Revolori) begins to gather Peter’s research for publication in an academic journal. A group of entrepreneurs want to adapt his ideas to sell custom environments, but Peter wants to keep his findings as pure as possible.

Peter’s social awkwardness comes through when he visits Ellen Chasen (Rashida Jones), a divorced woman who is quite enchanted by his courtesy, his passion for his work, and the intense attention he gives to everything he does. But when all he can come up with as the cause of her sleeplessness and anxiety is that her toaster’s sound is not in harmony with her refrigerator’s, she is not impressed. Her inability to affirm his work mirrors a larger problem – that he is surrounded by skeptics and unable to connect on a personal level with anybody else. His capacity to respect objects and aural landscapes is undoubtable, but is that the prescription for a meaningful life?

Writer/ director Michael Tyburski has done a fine job orchestrating the complexity and subtlety of this odd-ball drama that touches on music theory, the connections between sounds and human illness, the toxins of noise pollution, and challenges which lie ahead in the intersection of all these subjects. Peter Sarsgaard delivers a performance of great range and depth in the lead role.

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10 Sep

In a long and enlightening life, Ram Dass has served as a spiritual scout for millions of people around the world. We’ve profiled him in our Living Spiritual Teachers Project with a bio, links to our reviews of his books, links to his websites, and other resources.

Ram Dass has stated, “Wisdom is one of the few things that does not diminish with age.” That truth is evident in this film in which he is interviewed in his home in Hawaii by director Jamie Catto. Included are clips from his multidimensional life, including many scenes of his early teaching with groups. Catto, a long-time student, encourages Ram Dass to explain his understanding of the value of being a “zero.” Mahatma Gandhi shed light on this Hindu spiritual practice which results in a radiance from putting others before oneself.

Telling stories from his own life, Ram Dass explains that most of us are born into “somebody training,” but he found the suit didn’t quite fit. He came home to himself when he went to India and met his guru, Neem Karali Baba. “A guru is your gateway to God, an entrance, and a pure mirror,” he explains, “he isn’t anybody at all.” By becoming nobody, you are released from the demands of your ego; you don’t get lost in the details and allow your awareness to go free.

As you would expect, Ram Dass the elder talks a lot about death. He sees it as “taking off a tight shoe that you have worn well.” Everything is to be lived to the fullest — including the moment of our death.

Becoming Nobody showcases a master teacher at his best — full of enthusiasm, laughing at his own and others’ humor, sharing his patented one-liners, and encouraging us all to embrace everything that happens to us as a something to work with and learn from.

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10 Sep

“Today the most useful person in the world is the man or woman who knows how to get along with other people. Human relations is the most important science in the broad curriculum of living.”
— Stanley C. Allyn, American businessman

During most of his long and illustrious life, Father Theodore Hesburgh (1917 – 2015) was known as the most influential priest in America. After earning a doctorate in sacred theology, he embarked on a teaching career. In 1952, this zealous priest became President of Notre Dame with high hopes of raising it from a second-class school to a first-rate institution. Over his 35 years in this office, Hesburgh proved to be a charismatic and innovative leader. When he was off on a multitude of special projects, consultations, and meetings, his second-in-command handled campus administration.

This fascinating and rounded documentary directed by Patrick Creadon does a smashingly good job covering Hesburgh’s work as a bridge-builder between individuals and groups that were adamant against or hesitant to work together to find common ground on important issues. First appointed to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission by President Dwight Eisenhower, he persevered in his mission to achieve equality for African-Americans, working with Dr. Martin Luther King, the Kennedys, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon, who fired him. Leon Panetta heralded Hesburgh as “the conscience of the county on civil rights.”

During a period when Americans and Soviets were at each other’s throats in the posturing moves of the Cold War, the savvy priest and peace-maker managed to get them on the same page at an important meeting of the Atomic Energy Commission. Here again, Hesburgh demonstrated the kind of mediation skills not possessed by many politicians of the times.

The documentary uses archival footage and interviews with such notables as journalists Ted Koppel and Ken Woodward, politicians Alan Simpson, Jimmy Carter, and Nancy Pelosi, ambassadors, government secretaries, and others. Looking at the tensions and the calamities of the times during which Hesburgh lived, we can see how he can be a model for us in our own difficult world.

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06 Sep

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you have been.”
— Madeleine L’Engle in On Women Turning 70 by Cathleen Rountree

Edie (Sheila Hancock) is an 80-year-old woman who laments that she has spent most of her life taking care of an irritating, ailing, and controlling husband. There had wanted to do so many things, visit so many places, and have so many experiences. Now that he has died, can she finally do what she wants to do?

While sorting some things, Edie comes across a dusty postcard from her father who years ago had invited her to climb Mount Suilven in Scotland. Thinking about that awesome mountain, she recalls what a brave and free spirit she was so long ago.

“Aging is a moral and spiritual frontier because of its unknowns, terrors, and mysteries”
— Thomas R. Cole in The Journey of Life

Convinced that she can take on and fulfill this dream of her younger self, Edie journeys to the west coast of Scotland. There she reveals her cranky side at a climbing gear shop when the clerk, Jonny (Kevin Guthrie) doesn’t believe she is up to the climb. Eventually, she is convinced to take him along as a guide. As she embarks on this daunting challenge, Edie is forced to come face-to-face with the unknowns, terrors, and mysteries of her private pilgrimage.

“Old age is like climbing a mountain. You climb from ledge to ledge. The higher you get, the more tired and restless you become, but your view becomes more extensive.”
— Ingmar Bergman, Swedish film director

Writer and director Simon Hunter makes the most of Sheila Hancock’s sturdy performance as an elder who yearns for an experience that will test her and take her deeper into herself than she has ever been before. She hopes that all the physical effort and spiritual strain will pay off with an extensive view.

“Aging is a stage in life that’s especially ripe for us to get free.”
— Ram Dass in One-Liners

For many elders, one of the exciting things to discover is the fire inside them. Edie recalls: “I was a wild child, difficult to believe now. I used to have such fire … and then I got married.” On her pilgrimage, she seeks to regain that early fire. Freedom, precious freedom — isn’t that what we all yearn for?

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