by Paul Russell:
The Australian Tropfest Short Film Festival winner for 2017 is a dark comedy called The Mother Situation. The largest film festival of its kind in the world, now in its 25th year, gave its prestigeous gong to a film about assisted suicide.
Australians are known for their sometimes dark humour. This is not the first Australian film to take a comedic look at this sensitive subject. In 2015 the film 'Last Cab to Darwin' won a raft of awards for the story of a Cab driver with stomach cancer who travels to Darwin in the mid-1990s to die under the Northern Territory's short-lived euthanasia laws (see promotional video). Based loosely on the true story of Cab Driver, Max Bell who travelled thousands of kilometers by car from his home in Broken Hill seeking euthanasia, the film is an interesting look at life, death and relationships that diverges from the true story in some significant ways.
Tropfest winner, The Mother Situation, by contrast, is very dark. The premise is that the three grown children of an elderly Sydney woman want her to die by 'euthanasia' so that they can sell her house and solve their own financial woes into the bargain.
Australian actor and filmmaker Matt Day, explained:
"House prices are at a constant level of chatter in Sydney and so is suicide," he said.
"I heard someone talk about this out one night saying, 'Well he's going to be fine when his parents die because he's got the house at Balmain and the place on Pearl Beach'.
"All that stuff just kind of congealed and came together and made me laugh. I just thought, wouldn't it be funny if they'd all come to their mother's bedside and she decided not to do it."
The film is chilling. We see the three adult siblings assemble in their mother's home in what is clearly a gathering to farewell their mother who is about to either be euthanased or to commit suicide (not made clear) only to find that she has changed her mind.
All sorts of dark conversation follows, some of it in the presence of the mother who sits in her bed; her expression gives little indication as to whether she understands what is going on or not.
The film closes with the three siblings working through the instructions on how to assemble a 'bag death' helium contraption. Clearly, the intention was that the mother will die, whether she wants to or not. The scene then quickly changes and the film closes with shouts of joy from the siblings as a real estate agent tells them the sale value of their mother's home. We are left to conclude that the mother is dead.
Yes, it is somewhat funny. Well, at least it appeals to my sometimes twisted sense of humour. But it is chilling at the same time because it echoes clearly the kind of thinking and the kind of pressure situations that define Elder Abuse and, into the bargain, the time-honoured and inescapable understanding that euthanasia and assisted suicide laws may contribute to or make possible the ultimate in Elder Abuse; an untimely death.
The producers of this film will no doubt have been unaware, but they have made a solid contribution to the debate on this issue, highlighting the inherent and inescapable dangers. A 'must see' for all parliamentarians!
You can vew the film at the RedBull website HERE.
Warning: The video contains some bad language and may be disturbing to some viewers.
If you find anything in this article or in the videos at all disturbing, please talk to someone and consider phoning Lifeline on 13 11 14.