Wed, Apr 17, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Movie review: A Decision

Maso Chen follows 2017’s ‘The Silent Teacher’ with another skillful documentary asking uncomfortable questions about death

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Chen employs a number of cinematic devices throughout the film to augment this helplessness, for example miking the patient breathing through the ventilator and beeps of the medical machines as part of the soundtrack. Another scene shows the patient spending almost five minutes going back and forth with a volunteer to get his computer to where he wants, something able-bodied people can accomplish themselves in five seconds. The most poignant shot of the film occurs when nothing is said, the camera fixed on a window revealing the sunny weather outside. The curtains move with the wind, and the patient lies quietly, almost invisible, in the corner, just breathing, unable to do anything.

A Decision is not going to get as much praise as its predecessor — which is a hard act to follow — and it isn’t close to material that would usually be featured in major theaters, but kudos to Chen for taking the leap despite low hopes of box office success. Almost every person this reviewer spoke to about the movie responded with something along the lines of “I can’t bear to watch something that depressing.”

But it actually wasn’t as depressing as expected. Perhaps it’s how honest Chen’s subjects are, how brave and candid they are about their situations. Instead of feeling sorry for these people, it’s actually fascinating to listen to them talk about death, letting go and other topics that Taiwanese generally consider taboo or morbid. It’s a rare look into the minds of people to whom we would dare not broach the topic in real life. This speaks to Chen’s ability to follow people around during such private and emotional times, and the ability to get them to open up about a difficult topic as well. It’s superb documentary filmmaking, and it makes up to a certain degree for the lack of drama and complex and unique protagonist.

It’s a very uncomfortable topic, but someone had to tackle it in this age where people prefer to either play it safe with heartwarming or inspiring tales or go for the shocking and extreme.

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