Directed by Allan King
Once in a while a documentary can leave you speechless. Allan King accomplished this with Dying at Grace which he filmed in 2003. The documentary focuses on the final days of five terminal patients living at Toronto Grace Health Centre. The Directors Guild of Canada gave it Outstanding Team Achievement in a Documentary and critics have lavished the film with praise. The film is now included in The Criterion Collection as well.
After obtaining consent King took cameras into the palliative care ward of the Toronto Grace Health Centre to follow the final journey of five terminal patients. There is no narration, subtitles, or interviews. This is a film that takes the raw footage of the experience of death and presents it in a clear and startling way. From the stages of grief to the pain of those left behind nothing is off-limits. The patients come from all walks of life and have many different takes on their own impending deaths. The staff is also shown as they go about their jobs with professionalism and kindness. The end result is an amazing look at hospice care in this Toronto hospital.
This is not a film for everyone. This movie doesn’t pull punches or shy away from the uncomfortable truth. The filming was done over many months and the transformation of the people as they deteriorate is startling. This is also a slow-moving film which can seem a bit unnerving at times. In the end this is likely a film for the fan of documentaries more than most other viewers. I give this film 3.9 out of 5 stars.