Dead Good (2018) ***

May 6th, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Rehana Rose | UK Doc

Death has lightened up according to a new documentary that aims to deal with the dark taboo surrounding our final exit. Dead Good visits a series of Brighton women who are now offering practical ways to process the aftermath of death in a surprisingly serene and filmic ‘made for TV’ style. Rose also helps lift the lid on the funeral director’s job showing how nowadays families and loved ones can be in charge, rather than feeling like captive mourners, left to flounder in a well of emotion.

Bamboozled and grieving after the death of a family member, the obvious thing is to rush to the nearest funeral parlour who will invariably offer an expensive and often exploitative procedure for dispatching your loved one. Then there’s the religious ceremony and all that involves. Not to mention the legal and civic requirements. But it’s’ not always been this way. In the past the corpse was often kept at home prior to the funeral, so loved ones had a chance to their come to terms with their grief and spend time with the physical body, often actually preparing it for burial, while coming to t terms with their emotional bereavement.

One of the ‘funeral specialists’ we meet is Cara who set up her practice 20 years ago after experiencing the traditional funeral sector and then training to be a freelance embalmer (the process is shown on a mock-up comic video). Not surprisingly, she found embalming invasive and unnecessary, and only vital if the body is being transported great distances. But her intention to empower, rather than take over in this most private of affairs, is what gave her to idea to start her business. And ‘empowerment is the watchword of the other specialists who appear.  On the religious side, we also meet quirky parish priest Peter, who may have been the inspiration for the Sophie Waller Bridge’s vicar in the TV comedy Fleabag – although Andrew Scott is infinitely more relatable.

There is no narrative structure as such, the film is here to inform and enlighten with statements such as “everyone can have a meaningful funeral that is affordable and personal”. Musical choices mostly feel intrusive and counterintuitive. Dead Good works best when it focuses on the practicalities of dealing with the post mortem process and the funeral options rather than on the personal stories which feel too personal, although thankfully Rose maintains an unsentimental and candid approach throughout. Dead Good also shows how nowadays individuals can fulfil the dead person’s preferences as to their ceremony, coffin etc. And here Cara points out that in most cultures death preparations have traditionally been, and still are women’s work – wouldn’t you know it!. MT



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