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End Game Indeed

June 4, 2018




‘End Game’ is a new documentary on Netflix that delves into the lives of terminally ill people during their final days. The movie grapples with death in intimate ways rarely seen on screen.


‘End Game’ might scare people, but it shouldn’t, writes volunteer Sunshine Mugrabi in 'Pallium India' newsletter about a recent film on 'Netflix'.


The film is about dying, and is a beautiful meditation on what makes us human–in all its fragility, fear, humour and sadness. It turns ordinary moments into meaningful ones. It shows that when death is near, it’s impossible to escape the reality that each one of those moments could be the last, bringing out the complex yet beautiful experience that is death.


The movie was shot in San Francisco, California in two locations. The University of California, San Francisco Medical Centre, and Zen Hospice.


The scenes at Zen Hospice show a warmer atmosphere. Pat, a woman with incurable uterine cancer, tells her story to a volunteer. Her eyes fill with tears as she recounts the moment her doctor gave her the news. Tears spill over, but she also smiles. She talks about the relief she feels knowing she’s monitored and cared for. 


Zen Hospice Executive Director Dr. B.J. Miller talks about his philosophy: Rather than avoiding suffering, move towards it. Death isn’t hidden away there, he explains. This is followed by footage of staff members covering a body in flower petals.


Dr. Miller had his own brush with death. When he was in college, he and some friends were playing around on a parked train car. He was electrocuted. The doctors amputated his left arm below the elbow, and both of his legs below the knee. His disability makes it possible for him to connect with patients and their families in a way that others might not.


In one scene, he meets with a patient named Thekla, encouraging her to get comfortable with the idea of death. She says she has failed to “make friends” with death as he had assigned her to. So he suggests she find ways make the subject part of her life, not necessarily in a friendly way.


“The scary part is the unknown and the lack of control,” she says.


There’s camaraderie in this interaction. A partnership in which both are learning how to hold the mystery that is death.


In another scene, Dr. Miller welcomes a new patient to the hospice, a frail, emaciated man. Dr. Miller tells him he’s become popular there.


The man’s face breaks into a near toothless smile. Later, the camera focuses on him as he is being bathed in bed, bubbles covering his bony chest.

“This part of my life is wonderful,” Tekla says. “And who would’ve thought?”


You can watch the movie here:

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