When the mother of a french family gets diagnosed with cancer, everyone in the family is forced to confront the realization that death is only a matter of time. Death is an incredibly hard subject to discuss in cinema but Maurice Pialat's The Mouth Agape does so with unflinching realism. It's a film that takes a look at how the death of a loved one affects everything and everyone around them. The Mouth Agape goes beyond dialogue, relying heavily on the silence of the situation, capturing the underlying emotion of its various characters. There is a conversation early on in the mother's diagnosis where her son and her reminisce about old times, having nice conversations but even still their is this underlying sense of doom which can be seen on their faces whenever the dialogue between the two of them lies stagnant. I can't speak enough about how the film treats all of it's characters with respect - this isn't a perfect family, and we sense the guilt in her husband and son as well as her own- knowing the burden which she has become. The slow deterioration of the mother's body to the point where she can't even speak or feed herself is emotionally devastating, almost like the film is showing the soul of this woman slowly leaving the body step-by-step. The father is such a fascinating character, a man whose a drunk and an unfaithful husband. He's always been interested in the next young woman who comes his way, but once things go from bad to worse he becomes a broken soul. He's a man whose responsibility to his wife is hard to separate from his actual love for her. It's this idea of physicality vs. emotional connection, with her husband ultimately being the most affected of anyone when she passes away. We also learn that the son's propensity to cheat mirrors his father's antics, as he appears headed down the same path as his father. There lives are parallel and Pialat even dresses the two men in almost identical outfits through the second half of the film to illustrate this point. The cinematography is pretty minimalistic with framing and compositions that elicit mood but there is one tracking shot during the funeral which perfectly captured the grief of death and how so many people are affected. Maurice Pialat's The Mouth Agape is probably the best film about death I have ever seen, showing the broad affects and the lessons which can be learned, specifically in this case her son, who most learn from his father's past mistakes after seeing the discourse and regret on his father's face.
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