‘Here Awhile’ Review
Political opinions don’t appear in my reviews very often, but I can’t help wonder if many of those opposing ‘Death with Dignity’ might feel differently if they found themselves in Anna’s situation. Here Awhile opens with her in a doctor’s office obviously receiving the most dreaded of news. The camera remains on her face. There is no dialogue, only her last moment gasp before we move to the opening credits.
Anna Camp (“True Blood”) stars as Anna, diagnosed with terminal cancer. She has explored every possible treatment, including those in the experimental stage. Since none are an option for her, she has decided to move back to Oregon, where death with dignity is an option. She shows up unannounced on the front porch of her younger brother Michael’s (Steven Strait) house. The two haven’t seen each other in many years – not since their father kicked her out for being a lesbian. The father is now deceased and his ashes are in a file box in Michael’s spare room.
The once-close siblings re-connect quickly as the pain of the past is released. They laugh, reminisce, and get caught up. Michael works in IT, and Anna is an established artist in Salt Lake City, where she’s a homeowner with her partner Luisa (Kristin Taylor). Over the course of a few days, Anna meets Michael’s girlfriend Shonda (Chloe Mason), and his neighbor Gary (Joe Lo Truglio, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”). Gary has Asperger’s, plus a few other afflictions, and often pops in for a scoop of Michael’s sugar.
Anna is not prepared for Michael’s backlash to her decision, and that leads to heartfelt conversation, as well as an initially defensive Luisa when she arrives. It’s touching to see how Shonda and Gary react, and to see Michael’s emotional evolution. Of course, he doesn’t want to lose his beloved sister – the one he’s only just reconnected with. We can all relate to his feelings. But as Anna says, it’s her decision and she would rather go out on her own terms, than in a cold hospital with tubes sticking out.
This is the directorial debut and first screenplay from Tim True, who shares ties to Oregon with his co-writer Csaba Mera. Of course this is a tough and controversial topic. We witness Anna’s labored breathing and the other effects of late-stage cancer, and the heaviness is offset a bit thanks to Gary’s t-shirts and coffee mugs. An alternative title to the film could be ‘the long goodbye,’ but Anna’s farewell is handled very well by the actors and filmmakers. Anna recites a poem (from Mary Lee Hall) with the line, “Turn again to life, and smile,” and we realize she’s made the decision that’s right for her. Perhaps that’s all that matters.
Here Awhile is available on Apple TV.