Death, despite it being a taboo subject in western cultures, is an intrinsic and inevitable part of our own mortality. It’s also something that, according to documentary Dead Good, has been transformed into a cold and impersonal industry worth millions, far removed from its traditional familial roots. However, there is a new “progressive death movement” sweeping across the UK that aims to change this and, by following two funeral directors operating under this mindset, filmmaker Rehana Rose paints a deeply moving and touching reflection of death in her first feature documentary.
Centring around three families as they prepare to say goodbye to their loved ones in a manner that feels most comfortable and personal to them, the film’s interviewees are completely open and honest about their emotions and opinions on the subject, unafraid to lay it all bare to the camera, consequently grounding the documentary on the most fundamentally human level possible. Moreover, the approach to these people’s very real situations is not in any way exploitative; instead the treatment of the dead, their families and the funeral itself is handled very tastefully – although some may be uncomfortable with the many images of dead bodies presented onscreen throughout.
A large factor of Dead Good’s elegance is thanks to the beautiful combination of some stunning cinematography and music choices that instils a meditative and sublime atmosphere, one that openly encourages viewers to reflect on the onscreen moments just as much as the subjects – one sombre rendition of Pictures of You by Robert Smith is particularly effective. However, while these moments are unquestionably heartfelt, there are times when the soundtrack outstays its welcome; at one point the same track is played again only moments after first being heard, significantly lessening the artistic impact. And with the runtime already being so short (coming in at just under 80 minutes), the repetition and extended nature of these points act as unnecessary padding.
While the documentary is partly intended to shine some light on this new trend of personally tailored funerals, it is best viewed as an open invitation on the reflection of death and the meanings it has for different people. Emotionally charged and beautifully made, Dead Good is ultimately an understated but powerful portrait of death.
Dead Good is released in select cinemas on 10th May 2019.
Watch the trailer for Dead Good here: