Screened as part of NZIFF 2017
The task of caring for his terminally ill wife Margaret falls squarely on the broad shoulders of Stephen Lee. He would not have it any other way. Gwen Isaac’s observational documentary was shot over the four years following Margaret’s diagnosis with motor neuron disease. We watch as the focus of the small family shifts from raising a young daughter to providing palliative care to the wife and mother. It’s a bitter, losing battle in which Margaret fiercely asserts the identity her failing body denies her, while her caregivers increasingly endure the injustice of being perceived by their patient as the disease’s enablers.
Stephen also has to earn a living and take care of Imogen, aged ten at the time of diagnosis. Observing the child’s self-preserving separation from the relentless tragedy unfolding at the other end of the house, Isaac’s film is often startling in its candour. Where There Is Life also measures the sustenance Margaret receives from her ardent Christian faith. Stephen characterises his devotion as nothing more than the fulfilment of his marriage vows. It is a view this film honours with total respect.