When I wrote about the trailer for the powerful-looking drama The Father yesterday, which sees a daughter (Olivia Colman) struggling to come to terms with the mental decline of her father (Anthony Hopkins), I didn’t expect to be writing about a related feature quite so soon. Dick Johnson is Dead is the upcoming Netflix documentary that tackles the same central theme, but with a wholly unique approach.
Richard “Dick” Johnson is an eighty-six year old retired psychologist suffering from dementia, and the end isn’t far away. He knows it, and his daughter – documentary filmmaker Kirsten Johnson (Cameraperson) – knows it too. But instead of becoming maudlin and dwelling on the inevitable this father and daughter pair came up with a new approach – by killing Dick in every way possible, with Dick an only too willing participant in all the inventive ways he meets his own demise, and even going so far as to stage his own mock funeral.
The official synopsis is as follows:
A lifetime of making documentaries has convinced award-winning filmmaker Kirsten Johnson of the power of the real. But now she’s ready to use every escapist movie-making trick in the book – staging inventive and fantastical ways for her 86-year-old psychiatrist father to die while hoping that cinema might help her bend time, laugh at pain and keep her father alive forever. The darkly funny and wildly imaginative Dick Johnson is Dead is a love letter from a daughter to a father, creatively blending fact and fiction to create a celebratory exploration of how movies give us the tools to grapple with life’s profundity.
Let’s take a look:
This is both funny and incredibly poignant at the same time, and on a personal level I can only imagine how valuable the time making this documentary was to the Johnson family. Death might be near, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate life.
What do you think?
Dick Johnson is Dead is due for release on Netflix on 2 October.
Last Updated: September 16, 2020