Riveting in spots, and, as an impressionistic portrait of a life through one’s interests and desires, it’s fantastic.
As a film about that and ethical questions in documentary filmmaking and mortality and cinematic language, it’s a bit scattered. Johnson is asking so much from the audience by letting us loose with no guiding voiceover. I spent much of the running trying to put the pieces together, attempting to unravel the relationship between the images – especially between those of her ageing mother and the ominous overtones her footage takes when pitted against some of the implied horrors Johnson shows in other places. By the end of the film, where it seems Johnson doesn’t quite know how to finish, I didn’t quite know where she stood in relation to basically anything. Whether that’s because I need another viewing to parse her intentions or because her intentions are too diverse and diffuse to cohere into something manageable is up for debate.
But I’m leaning towards the latter.