“Grief needs to be honoured, it needs to be expressed, it needs to be dealt with.”
Seven years ago, Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds lost their son Josh to a traffic accident in Vietnam. A Love That Never Dies follows the couple as they embark on a road trip across America, talking to other parents who have lost children about their journeys with grief and how they’ve managed to carry on with their lives.
The grieving process is a scary thing, mysterious to those who’ve never experienced it, isolating and exhausting for those who have. In the conversations that Harris and Edmonds have with parents all around America, it becomes apparent that no two people experience grief the same way, and yet there are commonalities; no longer feeling safe, becoming a pariah in a community that doesn’t know how to treat the bereaved, the crushing responsibility of being the one who has to keep the memory of their child alive. After all, as one mother bluntly puts it, “If I don’t talk about my dead child, who’s going to?”.
Whilst the shared experiences of the grieving families are interesting, it’s the individual cases that stand out. One family lost their fourteen-year old son after he shot himself with a gun that he’d thought was empty. The boy’s mother has left his room exactly as it was when he died, down to the piece of paper where he was writing a song for his sister’s birthday. It’s a devastating scene.
A Love That Never Dies benefits from being made by two bereaved parents; there’s a real sense of the interviewees opening up because they know that Harris and Edmonds have been through the same ordeal. A director who hadn’t known such heart-crushing grief wouldn’t have been able to yield the same sort of honesty. The documentary seems to have been a healing experience for everyone involved.Harris and Edmonds are not directors by trade (though Edmonds has made some short films), and so it’s unsurprising that A Love That Never Dies is a little rough around the edges. The few creative flourishes don’t really work. The font they use for onscreen graphics isn’t a great choice; it looks more like something you would see in a PowerPoint presentation than a movie. Staged moments appear unnatural. Overall, there’s a televisual feel to the whole endeavour that makes you wonder how it will play on the big screen.
Whilst not particularly successful as a cinematic documentary, it is hard to fathom how useful A Love That Never Dies will be to those who have lost a child. In offering a road map and reassurance for parents joining a club that nobody wants to join, Harris and Edmonds have done something courageous and constructive with their grief. They are a brave couple indeed.
It isn’t the most polished of documentaries, but A Love That Never Dies will mean the world to bereaved parents in dire need of comfort. So for Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds then, mission accomplished.
A Love That Never Dies is released in UK cinemas 18 May