Death is inevitable to all human beings and, in extension, to all living things. The documentary Dick Johnson is Dead celebrates life. Crafted beautifully by Kirsten Johnson, the movie is about her father, who is diagnosed with dementia. This documentary Dick Johnson is Dead aims at removing the stigma related to death all over the globe.
In Dick Johnson is Dead we meet Richard Johnson aka Dick, who is a very lively man with a charming presence. He was a psychiatrist and is a widower who lived in Washington. Kirsten had lost her mother a few years back and she didn’t have any frame to portray the warm person that she was. So, when her father started to slip up and miss his appointments, his friends contacted Kirsten. They came to an agreement that he would move in with her and she would film a movie about him dying. Kirsten confronts her father’s death by playing out various imaginary scenarios like a falling air conditioner or getting smacked in the head with a large wooden beam. A lot of effort was made to shoot these freak accidents as stuntmen were hired and there were pouches of fake blood. Dick Johnson is Dead is heartbreaking and heartwarmingly funny throughout.
Dick Johnson is Dead has never felt out of place!
It more than gallows humour as the main purpose of filming this documentary feature was for Dick and Kirsten to spend time together. The played-out scenes never felt out of place as it never felt like Kirsten was exploiting her father. In between the shots, we get to see the moments of chat between the father-daughter duo, where Kirsten is explaining to her father what is going to happen. Dick takes everything with good humour and is full of life.
“She kills me multiple times and then I come back to life,” Dick says, chuckling!
Shots of him falling asleep on the set or conversing with his daughter about having too much of the chocolate cake that may have led to his heart-attack a few decades ago ensure that the audience feels at least a little bit of what Kirsten feels for her father.
Although some of the scenes were acted, there were many that were simply genuine, like Dick failing his cognitive test and realising that he is losing his faculties. He starts to worry he will slip away further and become a burden on his daughter and grandchildren. There is some exceptional work done by Kirsten in the story-telling department that shows us what a beautiful relationship the pair shares. There is so much authenticity between them. This documentary is filmed with the primary objective of cherishing the time you have with your loved ones before they are gone forever.
In the documentary, we see Kirsten pulling out old photos of her mother who had Alzheimer’s. Dick remembers her death and calls it “a long goodbye”. Such a similar moment is coming soon to the family again as Kirsten braces for the inevitable, the future of her dear father.
Spend more time with your loved ones…
No one knows how long we have with our loved ones and this documentary brings out the feels for that. Therefore, spend as much time as you have with the people you love. This extraordinary documentary was clearly a way to deal with grief. After both of them having spent their time pursuing their careers and staying apart, Kirsten wanted to spend whatever time Dick had left together. Acting out all these different scenarios and shooting this documentary helped them share a few laughs which are always better than being gloomy and awaiting the inevitable.
Dick Johnson is Dead is streaming on Netflix.
Read our other reviews here.