Everyday Activist - Griefwalker (2008)

Posted on Monday, September 02, 2019 at 06:00 PM

Griefwalker (2008)

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

I wrote this review for the National Film Board blog competition. They have started posting the winners. I wasn’t chosen, probably because they preferred a light, personal style for the general public. Death doesn’t usually fit that criteria, though I was proud of myself. It’s taken since 2017, for me to finally get the words on to paper.

Two years ago, I saw a poster titled, “Good Grief: Nature Walking Through Grief and Loss” at a Calgary recreation center. Unable to make their screening of Griefwalker by Tim Wilson, I searched online to watch the documentary with the intention to promote their event on my movie blog. While I saw the film, I never managed to review Griefwalker, even after crying on Stephen Jenkinson’s shoulder last year. Something about Tim’s intimate storytelling caused me to reflect on my recent brushes with death that I hadn’t completely accepted.

Turns out, I’m not alone. In the opening scenes, water dripping from icicles morph into an IV drip as Tim contemplates his near death experience. He continues with a melange of interwoven end of life stories centering around his friend, Stephen Jenkinson, now a retired palliative care counselor. His presence at the side of the dying earned him the title “Angel of Death”. Yet he asks, “If you have to get the news that you’re dying from somebody else, how firmly in your life are you?”

Death isn’t confined to a hospital or hospice. When Stephen’s trapline snags a beaver, he offers tobacco for the life he’s taken. Similarly, he tells Tim that because his life was given back, it left a hole somewhere else that needs acknowledgement, otherwise the universe has a way of engineering circumstances to illicit appreciation. With degrees in social work and divinity, but the lifestyle resembling an indigenous medicine man, Stephen speaks slowly and deliberately about death being the crucible for life.

Within the movie, Stephen addresses hospital staff and other groups talking to them about the death of children. Tim’s son was born in distress, but is now healthy. Other couples, including Stephen and his wife, Natalie, weren’t so lucky. Pamela and Jonathan lost their twenty-two month old daughter in the privacy of their home after discontinuing her blood transfusions. Through photos and videos taken by the parents, Tim shares their grief at the time of their daughter’s death as well as their reflections of that stressful time. While Extremis and End Game focuses on terminally ill adults, they are used as teaching tools for those in the “death trade”. Their Oscar nominations signal the public’s continued need for a safe space to have difficult conversations regarding the often taboo subject of death. 

Calgary Showtimes: Griefwalker (2018) >

Griefwalker, Tim Wilson, provided by the National Film Board of Canada


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.