The Karman Line

Directing and story by Oscar Sharp.
Screenplay by Dawn King

#grief #metaphor #short film #fiction #advancedcaredirective #terminal

This movie is for you if …. enjoy abstract fiction, exploring family dynamics and emotional journeys, or if you have been considering preparing an Advanced Care Directive, but are unsure what it might feel like to face some of the decisions that come at the end of life.
This movie may not be for you if… you are currently experiencing great grief or loss yourself, though many have reported they found this film helpful,

The Karman Line is an atmospheric point somewhere between 80 and 100 kilometres above sea level.  It is the transition point between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.  In this beautifully presented short film, the Karman Line serves as a metaphor…perhaps for dying, for grief or for loss.  

A woman contracts an unusual condition which sees her literally start floating off the ground and slowly ascending uncontrollably towards the Karman Line, beyond connection with her family.  Olivia Coleman portrays the woman, Sarah, taking us on the journey of someone experiencing an incurable condition, with an inevitable ending.  Her journey is paralleled by the experience of her daughter, Carly (Chelsea Corfield), and Dave, her husband (Shaun Dooley).  The daughter is studying for exams with dreams of university, and follows the challenges she faces of trying to hold her dream, whilst coping with her mother’s ascent. The husband’s journey holds anticipatory grief and some denial, along with acceptance and holding on for as long as possible.  

In less than 25 minutes, using a seemingly absurd metaphor, which in another context may feel insensitive or laughable, the film takes us deep into an emotional journey of the three family members. Cleverly orchestrated, with careful language building the metaphor, there’s something so real and human about this film, that you forget how absurd the premise is.  Everything about this film is purposeful, challenging you to pay attention.

The film is open to interpretation, with one possible interpretation being about the stages of grief and another about a family’s experience with a diagnosis and unfolding of an incurable disease.

For me, the second interpretation came through strongly, with elements for attempts to slow the progress of the illness, to ease the effects and how to respond to the inevitable.  The film courageously holds the emotional journey and without judgement allows the viewer to reflect on the meaning.  

This film prompted me to consider the decisions points and value of an Advanced Care Directive, even though the film does not directly address this topic.  Viewers are likely to bring their own stories to this short film, influencing their own interpretation.

This film, in short, was wúnderbar!

You can watch The Karman Line for free on Vimeo.

Review by Catherine Bell

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