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DVD Review: Two Weeks

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Sally Field showcases her talents in Two Weeks, a tale of a woman, Anita (played by Field), who is near death due to cancer. Her grown children return home to help prepare her funeral arrangements. While the end is supposed to be near, Anita has two more weeks in her, and her four children take turns reminiscing and fighting about the past and present.

Julianne Nicholson plays Anita's daughter Emily, and Ben Chaplin, Tom Cavanagh, and Glenn Howerton play sons Keith, Barry and Matthew, respectively. Keith is an LA-based filmmaker who has decided to video his mother’s final days; Barry is a workaholic who has a hard time disrupting his work routine; Matthew, the youngest in the family, has a shrew of a wife whom the rest of the family detests; and Emily, the only girl, is stepping into the role of matriarch by “helping” her brothers cope with their mom’s death through books on the dying process. Anita's second husband of 13 years, Jim (James Murtagh) is a man who does not care for her children — and the feeling is mutual.

Director Steve Stockman’s Two Weeks is based on personal experience — his mother died at home in 1997 and the whole family was there. He took notes at the time and came across them years later. Through his recollection of both the tragic circumstances and the inevitable humor life brings to even the saddest situations, Stockman created a film at once funny, sad, and thoughtful.

The film is offered in both widescreen and full screen. The DVD also features commentary from Stockman, who invited Dr. Ira Byock, an end of life expert and director of palliative care at Dartmouth, to comment with him. In the commentary, Stockman talks about what went on with the making of the movie, and Dr. Byock gives his perspective for people who are facing, or have faced, the same situation. In addition, there’s a Group Discussion Guide viewers can flip through on screen, which outlines possible questions for group discussion. The last substantial extra is a 23-minute making-of featurette, "Learning to Live Through Dying." The extras are rounded out by four scenes labeled deleted.

Exploring issues such as marriage, children, family and religion, Two Weeks covers a lot of ground. It’s not a light movie. But for those who give it a chance, Two Weeks delivers honest emotion and humor, which is pretty much what you also get in “real” life.

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  • Credible research on near-death experiences (NDEs) is readily found on the website of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS).

    I reached IANDS after a personal experience with what I call the “light” during hypnosis. I clicked on “Research tab” for published papers at the site. New findings, particularly the two written by Dr. Peter Fenwick (neuropsychiatrist) and Dr. Pim Van Lommel (cardiologist) were particularly helpful.

    Also, a DVD by Dr. Bruce Greyson (psychiatrist) of the University of Virginia Medical School is about a long list of physiological and pharmaceutical explanations given to explain why these cannot be offered as adequate explanations of NDEs. If you’re interested, further research can be found at the site.

    I discovered that over the past 30 years NDEs have been the focus of many scientific studies at medical centers and universities throughout the U.S. and around the world. I found that many thousands of documented cases of near-death experiences have occurred. They are deeply mystical events going beyond the power of words to fully describe them. Yet, NDEs have elements in common. While no two experiences are identical: many have out-of-body experiences – accounts of viewing their surroundings from above or outside their bodies while clinically dead or unconscious during surgery, for example – details that are verified by nurses and doctors; meeting and communicating with mystical beings or deceased relatives; having a life review in the presence of “spiritual guides,” etc.

    NDE elements cut across all religious traditions including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. Almost all report that their lives are dramatically changed after their experience, including becoming more spiritual, more loving and caring, and often changing their work lives to the caring or teaching professions. While near-death-experiences have nothing to do with “faith” or “belief,” they are the essence of the religious experience.