Amy Hardie (director)
Scottish Documentary Institute (studio)
02 October 2015 (released)
05 October 2015
A friend of mine once told me: “People have the wrong idea of a hospice, they think people only go there to die, but people go there to heal.”
This sentence only begins to summarize the importance of palliative care for terminal illnesses, but the Scottish documentary Seven Songs for a Long Life proves to be much more than this.
Following the lives of seven people and the staff at Strathcarron hospice this film tells the story of life and death with a remarkable finesse.
The latter is achieved through a great attention to the details of everyday life, actions, habits and passions that are key to the patients’ wellbeing.
Seven Songs for a Long Life does not dramatize nor downplay cancer and those affected by it. It focuses on family, friendship, love, humour and, most importantly, music, which becomes a fundamental part of the healing process for Alicia, Dorene, Iain, Julie, Nicola and Tosh.
The sense of community is felt in every shot and in the humanity of both patients and staff. A staff that has to learn how to listen instead of trying to fix everything, as the nurse Mandy explains.
The acceptance of death is replaced by the beauty of life as Alicia faces her illness by having the best time of her life. Even Tosh’s death is dealt with through the power of music and the special bonds patients and staff have with each other.
A particularly moving story is that of Nicola, a mother of four whose cancer came back after 5 years. The spectator follows her through the process of hospitalization, her reactions to the illness and her admirable strength as she performs “Everybody hurts” in a universal sequence.
Seven Songs for a Long Life is, first and foremost, a documentary about humanity, one that gives a well-rounded portrait of dealing with cancer, but especially of beating it through life.