His father responds, "It's part of life."
Bodhi replies, "Then I don't like life. I don't like life."
It's a perfectly logical response.
At almost the same age, I stared at my bedspread and contemplated the implications of all I knew about death. Everyone I knew was going to die, and I was too. I remember that moment like I'd been let in on a cruel joke. In Bodhi, I can feel the hurt I felt that first time. It wasn't the last time I felt that way, and I assume I'm not alone in having such thoughts. That's one reason this movie is so important.
Very little culture and very few movies focus on that part of life we call dying, the actual process, and The Place of No Words would be remarkable if only for keeping that process in focus over the entirety of its 94 minutes.
It's a movie about quiet moments, a movie about being, and that's the perfect fit for Webber's lingering mise-en-scene direction. We have quiet moments with Bodhi and his parents, when he breaks into tears over their laughter at something he said; when they struggle to make him feel better, explaining why they laughed.
He may not like life at times, but that's only because he loves it enough to engage in it with every aspect of his being. His parents, loving him, play along. Life would be dreadful if it were only defined by death, and this movie repeatedly illustrates just how enormously the fact of death is counterbalanced with rich possibility, an infinity in each moment.
40-year-old Webber has acted in about 50 movies, including The Laramie Project, Broken Flowers and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, but the 5 films he's directed deserve distinct recognition. His previous movies (Explicit Ills, The End of Love, The Ever After and Flesh and Blood) blend pieces of memoir with fictional storytelling in ways that defy separation. The magic realism of Bodhi's perspective--making up adventures with his family even as they gather around his father's death bed--perfectly suits Webber's approach. It allows the magic of life to bounce up against its finality, and it lets the little eternities every child knows (and parents glimpse in their best moments) fill and hold the screen.
|Teresa Palmer and Mark Webber|
Note: Mark Webber's clear-eyed vision comes in some large part from his childhood growing up battling homelessness with his mother Cheri Honkala. A wonderful way to honor this movie is to give to her organization, the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign. Donate here to the Poor People's Army