Death is always messy and hard to understand, suicide is even more so. It remains a taboo topic that is often brushed under the rug. Take one’s own life is a massive public-health issue with a dozen distinct faces, which are all shaped by a number of circumstances. There are layers of anger and guilt over their decision, as well as sadness and confusion that might lead to negative reactions to people when they are hearing the similar news. People might be simply unpleasant and uncomfortable when discussing this complex issue. However, regardless of the suicide taboo, Milou Gevers, a Dutch woman whose mom had taken her own life, wonderfully made a documentary film entitled Why Didn’t You Stay for Me (2020) about her grieving process in order to make people aware of the taboos surrounding the subject.
Why Didn’t You Stay for Me (2020) begins with sorrowful music and gloomy visuals, signalling the wretchedness to the audience. Milou Gevers, the director, embarks on a journey to meet children in the Netherlands who have experienced the same pain she has: their father committed suicide. As Milou probes the children with questions no one has ever dared to ask her, they tell the audience about their journey from the time they got the heart-breaking news. Through 25 minutes, Milou succeeds in bringing the audience along on her most crucial sentiments and questions. Through the interview with De Film Krant Netherland, she appears to believe that by making this documentary film, she will be able to tackle these issues in a straightforward and bold manner. Also, she seems to be attempting to show that children who have lost a parent to suicide are more than capable of talking about it.
Milou has never met someone who own experienced the loss of a parent to suicide. She, like these four children, frequently felt she was the only one. The kids each have their own set of challenges, but they also have a lot in common. They are resilient, and while a parent’s suicide will always be a significant event in their life, with the right support, they may recover their mental health and vitality. Through the film, the difficulties they will confront and conquer will be represented in an animated landscape created using stop-motion animation. Each landscape represents a different stage of the grieving process. The documentary film appears to tell a story about struggling to deal with what occurred and expressing yourself about it, even if it is considered taboo. Moreover, Milo aims to illustrate that these children are not victims, but rather possess incredible resilience. Beautiful.
Through this documentary film, Milou and the other four children admit that they have spent countless times trying to understand their parents’ decision, wondering why they didn’t remain for them. Several children were likewise upset knowing their father had missed so many important times in their lives. However, some children have said that they are conscious that their father was miserable living in this world, so when they decided to leave, the kids have encouraged themselves to accept. One of them even believed that her father’s choice was the best for her and her family. Of course, they occasionally ponder on how different their lives would be if their father was still alive. They constantly regret not doing more to show him how important he was to their family. However, what matters most to them, is that their father is no longer in pain. It is powerful how the children are able to remember their father as a loving person and believe that their father did not want to harm their family and loved ones –all their father wanted was to get out of his agony.
Because the documentary is just 25 minutes long, it may miss the mark of elaborating on the hardships that the children, as well as the filmmaker, encounter. This film seemed to make their situation simpler. The difficulty seemed to vanish by the end of the movie, that is enhanced by visuals that depict each child having found their way to come to peace with the situation. They are dancing, horse riding or even just playing on the trampoline and cycling. They seem to build their path to healing as they go, slowly putting one foot in front of the other, and boom, it is finished.
As a human, we might never know what will happen afterward, but what Milou Gevers tries to remark at the end of the film that life, along with those of us who live it, goes on. The ending scene demonstrates that the children have allowed themselves gaining a new hope to carry on with their life. The suicide of their father was the single most traumatic incident in their lives. They didn’t know whether the pain would ever end at times throughout their mourning, but they trudged on, and little by little, they began to put their lives back together.
Why Didn’t You Stay for Me (2020) is a touching documentary about suicide and grief seen through the eyes of a child, and it’s a story of resilience, hope, and strength. The film demonstrates how, with resilience and encouragement, we might achieve hope and understanding in our lives while still appreciating those who have passed on. If you find yourself in the midst of a similarly traumatic loss, I hope you will sink deeper within yourself and open out to those who care about you. Hopefully, it will be of use to you as well.