Alive and healthy, many of us dream and make jokes about how we’d like to die. The ideal death for some of us would be to die in the arms of a lover, while some may want to drive their car into the Grand Canyon, and there are those who’d love nothing more than to get beheaded on a roller coaster while being blown by a female cop with cavities. We even joke about what we’d like to happen at our funeral; many people bring up themes – the nerds always talk about having Star Wars or Lord of the Rings themed funerals, the gothics obsess about being buried in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland and hippies fantasize about being incinerated and then rolled up into joints so their friends can smoke them. But all jokes and dreams aside, imagine that today your doctor tells you that you have X amount of days to live. What then? What do you do? This is just one of the issues “The Event” deals with and in a hard hitting way that’ll have you thinking about the film for days after, maybe even weeks.
During a visit with his mother, twentysomething Matt (Don McKellar) finally reveals to her that he is gay. His mother (Olympia Dukakis) shows little surprise, as she knew something was afoot when he did his female prom date’s make-up. He then tells her something that she doesn’t know – Matt is dying of AIDS. The news quickly spreads throughout Matt’s family and friends, as he gets sicker. Finally, feeling that he can’t go on any longer, Matt decides that he wants to commit suicide, but he doesn’t want to die alone. Matt wants to have a going away party for his friends and few family members, including his mother, to attend the night he plans on overdosing on medication.
“The Event” begins with the aftermath as paramedics wrap Matt’s stiff corpse in a body bag and haul him into the back of an ambulance. Nick (Parker Posey) is a district attorney investigating a string of mysterious deaths involving AIDS victims in the New York gay community, focusing on the latest, which is Matt’s. Nothing strange about AIDS victims dying, but these people have all been found to have an unusually high amount of drugs in their system and they were all patients of Brian, an AIDS councilor and Matt’s boyfriend. Initially, only Brian is brought into the police station for questioning, but once a videotape that was shot at Matt’s “Event” surfaces, revealing everyone present, a line of family and friends are called into questioning and their stories lead us into various flashbacks of Matt’s life as he struggled with the AIDS virus. Trying to find out just who exactly aided Matt in his suicide, Nick has to struggle with her own past while trying to uphold the law against assisted suicide.
Astounding performances from all, especially Don McKellar as Matt and Olympia Dukakis as his mother. Their performances alone will jerk tears from many an audience member, especially from anyone who has ever lost a loved one to a major illness. This is the only film I’ve seen at Sundance this year that didn’t get a round of applause at the end, only because everybody was busy sniffling and crying.
On a whole, “The Event” is a very important film that is as sad as it is uplifting. After viewing it you may just have a whole new appreciation for life.