A year following four hospice nurses who question their calling as they face emotional distress, financial hardships and the possible closure of their facility.
This is documentary at its most raw, captured as life and death unfold inside Wells House Hospice, one of the only full-time residential hospices in the US. The film follows four people working a job few would desire: tending to the needs of the dying. To be very clear, this is a film that deals honestly and bluntly with people in the final stages of their lives. Scenes of people in the process of dying are often startling. Despite this, Stopping for Death is not a depressing film. It is hard, harsh, extremely sad, but also irreverent, humble, and even funny. Drug addiction, homelessness, and disease have been the reality for many of the patients here. Abandoned by family, friends and almost entirely by society, Wells House offers a place of acceptance and love for the people no one else wants.
The gritty camera work, and the loud background hum of life-support machines create an authentic portrait of a day-in-the-life of the hospice. Off-the-cuff interviews with staff are at the heart of the film as they talk about burnout, budget cuts, and, more warmly, about their patients. It is hard to leave this film and not have the people who staff and run the hospice embedded in your mind. Whether it’s sharing a smoke out on the patio, complaining about shift work or the vagaries of the medical system, these caustic, compassionate characters, dressed in scrubs emblazoned with Looney Tunes, are utterly indelible. In spite of the challenges, the Wells House nurses carry out the work of aiding the dying with grace, humility and courage.
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