Warning. Stereotypes ahead.
High school kids think they are invincible. They’ve seldom had to experience the loss of loved ones. They’re too plugged into electronics to be present in the moment. That is, unless they attend the Harley School in Rochester, N.Y., where hospice is the name of a class. The documentary Beginning With the End follows a group of students who get class credit for volunteering in residential hospices aiding the terminally ill.
Filmmaker Dave Marshall follows prep school teacher Bob Kane and his students during a two-year period where they essentially learn higher-level compassion doing the day-to-day hospice grunt work of helping get patients in and out of bed, cleaning them, and simply being there. As the film makes abundantly clear, the last one is the touchstone at hospice, where patients can count the remainder of their lives in days, perhaps hours. One fresh-faced girl recounts leaving the room as a patient nears death to sit with another patient and admire the falling snow.
The deep access Marshall and his crew are granted means he doesn’t have to get fancy. Instead he lets Kane, who comes across as much mystic as teacher, and the teens rule the straightforward documentary ripe with a very important message about humanity.
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