Following his diagnosis with cancer, Patrick’s fear and confusion see him withdraw – literally and figuratively – from his wife, Stephanie. Yet as their relationship draws closer to collapse, they approach a point of emotional honesty that ultimately saves their love.
When I returned from London I went and lived with my parents on our family farm in Hawkes Bay. Both my parents are recently semi-retired. I welcomed spending time with them. As an adult it is a true privilege to get to spend a few months just hanging with your parents, redefning that child/parent relationship.
While I was there, my parents had a big project that they were building together. This wasn’t uncommon: my parents build things all the time, but I saw subtle changes in their relationship, diferences that had appeared in the ten years since I had left home.
I first started to notice this when my father came inside and asked my mother to come and check if he had got something right – he used to simply charge on. Or my mother would offer to drive – wasn’t that “his” job? My father started to cook a meal when my mother was running late, when he had barely cooked for my whole life. My mother was making my father drink vege juice, eat better food – they were trying to stay alive together for longer. Of course they were a partnership in the past – they grew a business together, had six children – but they also had their roles. I knew that; I had lived with them for 18 years. What I was seeing as they got older was two people redefning their relationship. They were relaxed, there was laughter, they were happy. They were in love.
This made me start to think about how people reshape their relationships; as you get older, especially as your body changes; how forces outside of your control can create challenges that you may have not dealt with in the past. Redefnition is vital. A prime example of this is our response to sickness, especially something like cancer.
Within New Zealand culture, particularly the rural sector, we still have a strong archetype of the “manly” man – that personality who simply doesn’t know how to talk about his feelings, perceives his emotions as something embarrassing and to be avoided. I have worked with them, I have drunk with them, some of my dear friends are married to them.
I started to think about what would happen if you couldn’t talk about what you were feeling, compared to the emotional honesty that I personally believe you need in order to live a happy life. I began to think: What if, unlike my parents, you couldn’t work out how to redefne your relationship when these challenges arrived? How bad could it truly get? What did that rabbit hole look like? This was the place in which I conceived this flm.
- David White, Director