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Usually, UK-based director Orlando von Einsiedel works the hard-hitting factual documentary beat, having made Oscar-nominated feature Virunga, about the fight to protect gorillas in Africa, and shorts shot in war zones such as Syria (The White Helmets). The subject of this latest feature is in every sense closer to home, but no less gruelling a topic. It finds Von Einsiedel turning the camera on himself and his siblings – sister Gwennie and little brother Robin – as they tread a series of paths through various British beauty spots beloved from a time they used to holiday together back when another brother, Evelyn, was still alive. Gradually it emerges that Evelyn took his own life 13 years ago, having struggled with mental illness for years after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his late teens.
Filmed by an intrepid cameraperson who was either using a monitor or walking backwards for miles, the Von Einsiedel siblings talk though painful emotions regarding their loss, including feelings of anger and guilt. On some of the walks, they’re joined by their divorced parents. Their mother Beta will never forget the day she saw her child dead, while German father Andreas thinks, sentimentally according to his angry daughter, of Evelyn as the child who was best at German, even though Gwennie was the one who got an A-level in the subject.
That raw, unfiltered view of the fragility of family dynamics is exposed movingly, and sometimes comically, throughout. A sequence where Andreas’s burst of annoyance with the service in a restaurant results in a family argument that ultimately plays just like a scene from a Joanna Hogg movie, such as Archipelago. Indeed, at times the serendipitous encounters, for instance with strangers who also grieve for loved ones lost to suicide, almost make it feel staged. Perhaps that symmetry and coincidence will seem a flaw, but others will note how much it underscores a tragically common cause of death worldwide, especially for young men. Graceful drone shots of the spectacular landscapes and a thoughtful but not overbearing score represent further virtues of this elegant film.
In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.
Source: The Guardian
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