“Death with Dignity” is a subject rich with drama and promise, and one avoided by most movie-makers because, “Seriously, who wants to think about that?”
But “Death with Dignity” earns a sad and sweet treatment in “Here Awhile,” an intimate indie drama about a young woman who travels home, to Oregon, for her final days.
Anna (Anna Camp of “Pitch Perfect” and “The Help”) leaves what we take to be a waiting room at a doctor’s office and makes her way back to Portland, checking in with the younger brother Michael (Steven Strait of “The Expanse”). They haven’t seen each other in years, and it’s a surprise visit. So there’s a bit of shouting, for starters.
But for his annoyance at how she “just took off” can’t last. He knows their Dad “threw your abomination lesbian sister out.” Now, Dad’s dead and they can reconcile, catch-up, scatter the old jerk’s ashes.
Only Anna’s always slipping off to throw up. “You OK?” is followed by “Not really” and “Can we talk?” She has cancer. It’s terminal. She’s come to a “death with dignity” state to make her exit.
“This is my life, what’s left of it. And I’ve got one move left.”
Helluva thing to dump on somebody, and Michael is going to have issues with her choice and the way she’s taking advantage of him, out of the blue, with this harsh news and his role in making her wishes come true.
“Here Awhile” doesn’t dwell on that conflict, and as Anna’s partner (Kristin Taylor) shows up and Michael’s girlfriend (Chloe Mason) makes an entrance, we pick up on the trauma of the siblings’ past (flashbacks), focus on Anna’s current needs and discover how Michael has grown up to be a natural caregiver who jst happens to work in IT.
For instance, there’s this app-building neighbor (veteran comic actor Joe Lo Truglio of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Reno 911!”) who is “on the spectrum” — Asperger’s, OCD, agoraphobia. Michael keeps an eye on him for his family, has control of his sugar intake and indulges his quirks.
“It means a lot. A lot of WHAT?”
Despite the third act step-by-step explainer of “How Death with Dignity Works,” “Here Awhile” is a light, somewhat superficial treatment of this.
Still, a movie on this subject coming out mid-pandemic, with friends, lovers and relatives dying — often alone in hospitals and nursing homes — can’t help but gain an extra poignancy.
There are beach visits and romantic montages set to music. Camp is another of those lovely actresses who looks too healthy to be dying.
But she and the more-competent-than-compelling supporting players keep this watchable, with even the standard-issue “adorable” take on Asperger’s going down easily.
When all is said and done, “Here Awhile” is here just long enough for Anna Camp to break your heart.
MPAA Rating: unrated, adult themes
Cast: Anna Camp, Steven Strait, Joe Lo Truglio, Chloe Mason and Kristin Taylor.
Credits:Directed by Tim True, script by Csaba Mera and Tim True. A 1091 release.
Running time: 1:22