Home Video Hovel- Time of My Life, by Chase Beck
Time Of My Life is a Belgian film by director Nic Balthazar (he’s big in Flanders). His previous film, Ben X won some awards. I would go check that film out before ever viewing Time Of My Life again. It is presented in Dutch with English subtitles, is 121 minutes long, and retails for around $24.99.
Time Of My Life is about one man’s struggle with multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a degenerative disease where a person’s neurons are less and less able to conduct signals to the rest of the body. While not fatal, those who suffer from it are forced to watch themselves slowly lose their ability to do everyday actions like walk and see. Eventually, they even lose the ability to speak and think as the signals in the brain are prevented from completing the various connections to do so. For someone suffering from MS, I imagine that time slows down to a crawl as they become confined to a bed, waiting hours for someone to come and assist them with the next necessary activity like showering or going to the bathroom.
In one sense, at least, Time Of My Life manages to perfectly simulate this aspect of living with MS for the audience as after the first half-hour the film slows down to an interminable crawl. Early on, it becomes an almost endless sequence of watching a man deal with slowly losing control of himself. This might have been more tolerable however, if the film had bothered to fill us in on a few details. For a non-Belgian, the political system is left so undefined as to render some main points of the movie entirely incomprehensible. Additionally, while the characters are portrayed by talented actors and the characters themselves are more or less well-defined on an emotional level, the details of their lives were never explained to a point that satisfied me. I had difficulty investing in the characters if only because they remained strangers.
This film is saved a little by the fact that it is based on, or at least inspired by a true story. In the film, the man suffering from MS is Mario Verstraete, a Belgian politician who was a major proponent for the legalization of euthanasia in that country. So, the story, at least, is grounded in reality. Unfortunately, the very nature of the argument, euthanasia versus a natural death, is quite polar. However, the movie manages to steer it’s way around it, for the most part, and instead focuses on the impact the illness and assisted suicide has on those suffering from the disease and those around them.
I found two scenes in the film particularly enjoyable. One, involves Mario attempting to instill a love of the music of Austrian composer Franz Schubert upon his young son. Another inspiring and well-crafted scene involves one of Mario’s friends, Speck, giving a speech around a dinner table. I took note of these scenes because I found very little opportunity for enjoyment in the rest of the film. But then, that’s not really its point is it? Rather, I assume, the film is meant to make you consider (or perhaps reconsider) your view on euthanasia/assisted suicide. Chances are if you’ve already made-up your mind either way, the whole exercise will seem rather pointless. However, an intimate portrayal of one man’s struggle with this disease as well as the struggle his friends and family must go through as they watch him slowly slipping away makes for interesting storytelling.
On the whole, I would not recommend this film unless 1. you are interested in the euthanasia/assisted suicide debate or 2. a big fan of modern Belgian cinema. The film is thought provoking, and little more. Perhaps that should be enough but, for me, it was not.