I feel like I've taken some hits for the team, in terms of movies, these past couple of weeks. I know - no one asked me to. Certainly, I didn't want to take any "hits," for anyone. I am highly avoidant of poignancy, as I've written. I go into the movies these days with fingers crossed that there will be no death. No death in the actual movie, or anywhere around me. I go in with fingers crossed and the small comfort that if there is a sneaky death in the movie, I can write about it. At least I can warn you. Some good will come out of my pain. (derisive snort right there, no?)
I'll paste in the tombstone rating guide at the bottom of these reviews, but you can also look here for the introduction of the system. Remember, I'm only reviewing movies that seem like they would have no death or overt poignancy in them. You want to see "The Adjustment Bureau," I will neither join you nor warn you.
Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun; an obscure foreign documentary I found on netflix. By the description, I was thinking it would be a good "this is what I am doing for god" kind of movie. However, it is also the kind of movie where you keep watching thinking maybe something will happen, and you don't want to miss it. Right. I am not writing reviews on whether the movie is "good" or not. Just on whether there is death. Yes. In Mr. Vig and the Nun, there is death. All the way at the end, so if you fall asleep before the end, you will actually miss it. For the death, which is done in a very understated way, but with a very sweet "goodbye letter" read out loud, this film gets a Two Tombstone rating, though it does break a rule inherent in the two tombstone description. So maybe call it a 2.5.
Paul. I wanted to like this movie. Simon Pegg has a special place in Matt's and my life, notably for Shaun of the Dead, which Matt told me was a comedy in order to get me to watch it. I did like this movie. Mostly. There were scenes where I could completely hear Matt's comments, were he there to make them. There were parts where I laughed (rather rare these days). There is one widowed reference, which you will pick up, but it's just a quick character development type line; a one-off. If you weren't widowed, you wouldn't have noticed.
About three quarters of the way through, I picked up a foreshadowing clue that had been laid down in an earlier part of the movie and started bracing for the death I now knew was coming. I guessed one character, and decided I would be okay with that particular character dying. And then - I was wrong. Not about the death, about which character. It's pretty graphic. And - it's a Simon Pegg movie. So it's also very silly. But as I sat there, watching this scene unfold, I heard myself shut down, not allow myself to be affected by it. I actually asked myself - "if I were a widow, would I find this scene disturbing?" And then - "right. I am a widow. And I am aware I have taken myself out of experiencing this death scene by imagining how it would be for a different widow. One who is closer to the actual event that widowed them." Clearly, I am only the widow I currently am, and I can tell you that by blocking out what I was actually seeing, and adding a bit of cynical scoffing, I was able to be emotionally unaffected by the scene in question. Of course, a non-death related line from a different character several scenes later had me sobbing, so what do I know. I'm giving this movie a Three Tombstone rating. Depending on how sensitive you're feeling, and how well you can distract yourself, you may or may not make it through just fine.
I so much wanted to give you all a solid recommendation for non-death-involving entertainment. I even watched David Attenborough's "Birds of the Gods," thinking that would be perfect. Only an hour (for short attention spans), some really neat nature stuff, and no one dies. Got through the whole entire thing, and no one died. Except. Just before the credits roll, there is a screen shot of one of the main "characters" in this documentary. With birth and death dates below the young smiling face. It wasn't one of the birds' faces, either. It simply ended what was a nice, relaxing, bird geek nature show with my thoughts turned once again towards death. Birds of the Gods: Two Tombstones. But a "soft" two; turn it off before the credits, and it gets a One.
I can't leave you with nothing, so I am reaching back into my own personal movie watching archives. When it was in the theaters, I saw The Switch, with Jason Bateman (I mean, he was in it. I didn't watch it with him). As far as I recall, this movie had absolutely no death in it. I think I would remember if it did. What I remember is laughing so hard I forgot I was widowed. I kept thinking it was just the kind of sweet, silly movie we would both really like. It was 3/4 of the way through before I remembered that I would not be going home to Matt, and that he would not ever see this movie, at least not corporeally. This is a prime example of why even the One Tombstone rating has its own disclaimer. Even when no one dies, I cannot guarantee you will not end up crying, or throwing up in the parking lot. But the fact that I went that long in a movie, any movie, without being fully aware of my reality - well, that is a really good sign. A solid One Tombstone for The Switch. That's the best I can give you, folks.
The Tombstone Rating System for the Recently Bereaved* :
*Dan came up with the name
Five Tombstones: Really. Unless you are concerned you've become completely cold and unfeeling, and therefore need to test if you still have a heart to break, skip this movie. It is loaded with just too much.
Four tombstones: Some difficult and poignant scenes, death is a major theme, and you wouldn't know that from watching the previews; see it if you are feeling strong and stable, or at a weekday matinee where you can sob freely.
Three tombstones: While death may not be the whole idea, there are some scenes that are, or could be, quite difficult, depending on your personal experience. You could fast forward through them, but you might miss some key storylines. A Three Tombstone rating is sort of a gray area - could be fine, could knock you over the edge.
Two tombstones: there's death, or dying, but it's either over quickly, or it happens to a minor character and no one cries. Reasonably safe. (see my previous review of the King's Speech)
One tombstone: the movie is free from all overt death imagery. Not saying you won't find a trigger in the movie somewhere, but no one actually dies, and no one nearly dies.