Tribeca Film Festival Review: “Pink Moon”

An ironic comedy about death

Life has no guarantees, neither does death. However, the need to choose when and how one dies remains a sociological and cultural question. Self-assisted suicide laws can be circumvented with the help of the family, if the members agree. pink moonan intriguing film directed by Floor van der Meulen from a screenplay by Bastiaan Kroeger, examines this question with humor and pathos.

Jan (Johan Leysen) plans his death thoroughly and thoughtfully. In top physical condition for his age, he has everything you can imagine in life. So, he reasons, he can verify with satisfaction.

We first meet Jan when he invites his adult children to dinner to inform them of his decision. Ironically, Jan doesn’t expect their deal to be a problem. For him, the circumstances are simple. He wants to die on or around his 75th birthday, in a few months. But during dinner, Iris (Julia Akkermans), her older brother Ivan (Eelco Smits) and Ivan’s wife don’t hear from him in a celebratory spirit.

This tongue-in-cheek comedy, which had its world premiere in the International Storytelling Competition at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival, raises some pointed questions about death. First, it examines the concept of choice. As adults, we make life decisions. Why not make rational decisions about death? Why avoid something as natural as sunrise? Instead of getting sick and being a burden, check before pain and suffering come. This is one of the main reasons Jan gives for his choice. Thus, the film addresses the philosophical as well as the practical nature of death. Indeed, he can be family friendly around and in tune on the day his life ends – maybe!

Q&A after the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival screening of pink moon with Julia Akkermans, Tribeca moderator, director Floor van der Meulen, screenwriter Bastiaan Kroeger (Carole Di Tosti)

A personal movie

Interesting way, pink moon is personal to all who see it. It makes you think of your parents if they are alive and especially if they are dead. Iris and Ivan question their father’s judgment. He reassures them that because he feels healthy and enjoys his success and prosperity, he believes he can perform at the top of his game. Besides, he’s had enough. He does not want to continue after his birthday. Finally, at the end of dinner, Ivan, who has children and a wife who diverts him from the dying enigma of the father, accepts Jan’s decision. On the other hand, a shocked and upset Iris refuses to understand her father’s wishes. Instead, she feels abandoned and alone.

Much of the film negotiates the father-daughter relationship and the bonds between them, beautifully brought to life by Akkermans and Leysen. Almost superficially, Jan shares the method he will use to kill himself. No one talks about suicide. Jan seems surprisingly stoic and emotionless about not meeting her grandchildren as a teenager or walking down the aisle with Iris at her wedding. From his point of view, the death process is only for him, because Iris and Ivan cannot die with him. Already dead in his thoughts, he dissociates himself from his role as father, grandfather, friend or husband of his late wife.

Self-control and acceptance of death

With concrete courage, Jan becomes the possessor of his own soul. He accepts death and does not “rage against the death of light” as in Dylan Thomas’ poem. Its decision cannot be reviewed or reversed.

A few months from his death, he asks Iris and Ivan to choose the personal effects of his house that they would like. Another time, he says, they will organize his funeral, his burial, the sale of the house and all the mundane tasks that follow the end of life. These aspects, instead of following death, will precede it. All will be tied with a neat ribbon and bow with no argument, no fuss or fuss.

We watch the siblings and father negotiate the process of letting go. Iris and Ivan mark the objects they want with red and green stickers, with an ironic lightness. Sometimes they choose the same precious object. Little by little, they try to get used to what is about to happen. Humorously, Jan even goes through a practice session where he sleeps in front of Iris and Ivan, playing dead to familiarize them with the stillness of his body.

The growing reality of his impending death compels us to want him to live. Ivan reassures Iris that he will make final preparations after Jan’s death, such as calling the authorities, relieving Iris of the burden. Thus, we believe that both accepted Jan’s decision.

However, at work, Iris informs her co-workers of her father’s decision and then quits. She says to her friend who hugs her. Although she attempts to begin the grieving process even while Jan is still alive, she faces an unusual disconnect. Still, Iris fights her father’s decision. Surreptitiously, she searches for a way out for both of them. After quitting her job, she plans an attack: moving in with him to share the remaining months and possibly persuade him not to die. Jan remains impassive and impassive. Then one day, while they are riding, Iris surprises her father and us with an extraordinary action.

Poignant father-daughter

This segment of the film where they spend time together remains the most poignant. Floor van der Meulen’s shepherd from Leysen and Akkermans succeeds. Their heartfelt exchanges coupled with the beautiful setting resonate. Thanks in part to the soundtrack featuring The Sonics, Jim Croce and Rodriguez, we watch her obliged, wondering if Iris will be able to convince her father to live.

The writing, humor and graceful cinematography put us in the shoes of Iris and Ivan as we ponder what we might do in such circumstances. Van der Meulen and Bastiaan Kroeger have given us pause as we wonder if we could choose death as Jan chose when time speaks to us properly.

pink moon earned a Special Jury Mention for Best New Narrative Director. You can still see it in Tribeca at home. Or search for it streaming on different platforms.

Darcy J. Skinner