Affecting the living after death is the primary function of a last will and testament. Most of them deal with the disposition of worldly possessions—often leading to protracted, miserable family feuds. A precious few seek to improve the lot of a special friend or lover in a humanely fulfilling way that has nothing to do with cold, hard cash.
So when Bobby (Thomas Dekker) made his predictable, too-soon departure from the planet (those who struggle with the debilitating effects of cystic fibrosis who live to celebrate much less cough through their 21st birthday—my best man defied all odds four decades ago and fought for a couple more), he managed to challenge (ah yet another use for personal DVDs) his best bud and former CF-ward mate, with the very personal task of delivering his ashes to a Mexican shrine known for its miracles. Would this 2,000-mile trek become Will’s (Max Thieriot) gift of life?
Not since Last Stop for Paul has an urn containing a cremated being been the central prop in the story (Paul’s was a doc but framed in a somewhat fictional manner—cross-reference below).
Director/writer Max McGuire (along with Shawn Riopelle who penned the screenplay) laces his treatment with lots of black/gallows humour and largely succeeds in creating a likeable character who enjoys trying out caskets while Mozart’s D-minor Piano Concerto—same key as the Requiem….—plays ethereally in the undertaker’s (Matt Frewer is marvellously dour) display room.
Most of the film is a road movie (beginning in Vancouver). Will’s travelling companion is Bobby’s sister, Hannah (Laurence Leboeuf) who eventually must become more than a grieving sibling, sharing the journey of pain. Of course, there are roadblocks and crazy characters (the most fun of which is Juliette Lewis’ portrayal of Will’s deservedly estranged Aunt Vicky), but eventually the sacred ground is reached only to be infested with weevils.
The narrative is patently predictable with only the stolen vintage Ford Mustang thread lacking a payoff. The strongest moment of truth, however, comes when Hannah has to admit that her brother’s passing wasn’t “peaceful”—sending a shudder of horrific meaning down the spine of anyone who’s been near the terminal illness.
The long-expected ending is handled with discretion and cinematic grace (Celina Cárdenas), yet is mute on the awful facts as to how heredity plays such a huge, unwelcome part of sending the life-ending medical travesty into an innocent body of the next generation. JWR