IT’S NOT A BURDEN – Review by April Neale

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“Life is trade-offs.” – Temple Israel (Hollywood) Rabbi Michelle’s mother, Eleanor.

The new documentary It’s Not A Burden is poignant, deeply funny in moments, and is a profoundly bittersweet look at caring for elderly parents. It is also a stark reminder to all viewers of how fleeting this life is, and preparing, planning, and praying for good health is not off the mark.

We go out of this mortal coil one of two ways, fast and furious or the long sweet goodbye. The latter is quite expensive. And the former is emotionally and financially taxing on the family left to deal with the care of an ailing mother, father, or sometimes both.

It’s Not A Burden is a love letter to the caregivers, the frail and suffering, and those charged with helping the older people get through their day and trying to make it as enjoyable as possible. It is a testimony of sorts and it will resonate with everyone except those who lost their parents in sudden-death situations.

Ideally, in the arc of life, our parents raise us, we become adults, have our own families, and then at an inevitable time, it becomes evident that an aged parent cannot be on their own anymore. Decisions need to be made—all hinged on finances and a sense of responsibility. To a more considerable extent, an act of love and a normal progression of the family unit’s fluid nature is and becomes unfold.

A wave of similar documentaries and films now address the profoundly personal reactions to having to deal with a parent who is aging and needs care, and may be ailing.

In that vein, It’s Not A Burden takes a similar humorous and bittersweet birdseye view of this natural process to that taken in the documentary Dick Johnson is Dead and the feature film, Falling which was based loosely on Viggo Mortensen’s personal experience with his father’s aging.

This story is told in chapters by many people from different walks of life. We see their specific situations and challenges all while Emmy-nominated filmmaker Michelle Boyaner is stitching in her own personal story with her mother, who is visibly slipping away into dementia.

The result is optimistic and sad, realistic and natural. As this is what we humans do, we get older, wiser, weaker, and sometimes luck out with a wonderful child or friend who becomes our guardian parent when we have more questions than answers.

Boyaner’s intentions are admirable considering her own troubled and conflicted relationship with “Elaine.” Still, something changes and softens, and we see Boyaner make peace, tearfully changing her phone entry to “Mom.”

Her perfectly wrought film addresses a subject Americans seem squeamish with, this process of aging, dying, and the realization we are finite.

It’s Not A Burden is a treasure map of how important it is to listen and advocate for our parents who lead fascinating full lives before age took their mobility or minds, and to foster patience, and know this path is being walked by so many of our friends, neighbors, and strangers around us.

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April Neale

April Neale is an entertainment writer and television critic. Neale has read her work both on NPR and 'Spoken Interludes', and has previously written for various industry trades and entertainment websites. Neale has written for Monsters and Critics since 2003, and is an editor and main contributor to the TV, Film and Culture (formerly Lifestyle) sections.