Pink Moon explores what it is to grow old and how we should use our time with our loved ones carefully, in this bizarre yet honest look at human mortality.
This will probably make me sound like your average modern-day parent, but I don’t think all of us fully appreciate the little moments as much as we should, because youth can sometimes blind us to what really matters and what we have in front of ourselves. A sibling, a friend, significant other or a parent: these are the people who we should prioritize above anything else, because we don’t know how much time we’ll get with them, yet most of the time we don’t, due to work, personal stress, or other obstacles. What does this have to do with a movie review? Well, as the Tribeca Film Festival continues to be a success for many up and coming filmmakers, I got to see a Dutch film called Pink Moon. Director Floor van der Meulen delivers an extraordinary feature debut with what’s an extremely meaningful story discussing heavy topics such as suicide, mortality, and losing the will to keep living as we grow older.
Iris (Julia Akkermans, Dirty Lies) and her older brother Ivan (Eelco Smits, Feast) visit their father Jan (Johan Leysen, Pandore) at his house to have dinner together. Here, they are told by their 74-year-old father the shocking news that he’s had enough of life and intends to end it all by his next birthday. While Ivan reluctantly accepts his wishes, Iris fights back and is determined to persuade him to change his mind.
Pink Moon wastes no time in establishing the main issue at hand. It is not here to play, which as a result helps the audience feel how jarring it must be for both Iris and Ivan to be given the news of their father’s wishes to die within the first five to ten minutes of the movie. For such a heavy subject matter, writer Bastiaan Kroeger finds a way to discuss mortality with ease. It’s an uncomfortable topic for many as it’s something countless people are fearful of, sparking an interesting dynamic between father and his children. In no way does the film promote suicide, but it does give a voice to those older folks who might want to keep their lives under their own control before it is too late and they’re too old to avoid a painful death in the future. Although perhaps one would have a hard time trying to understand why somebody would want to do such a thing, in Jan’s scenario it makes sense for his character to feel this way as he misses his long gone wife and days are just too sorrowful for him to keep going. Is a complicated question the film tries to ask you, one that makes for a complicated answer depending on the viewer.
This is where Akkermans’ beautiful performance as Iris comes into play. She perfectly mirrors what it is to be grieving a loved one after death, taking their own life. What makes Pink Moon unique, though, is that the grieving process takes place before the action is done and Iris herself knows about it and can’t find a way to persuade her dad away from these harmful thoughts. Iris’ journey isn’t just about accepting her father’s wishes and learning to let go, but about appreciating the moments she still has with her loved ones and how nostalgia for the past can sometimes be welcoming and warming.
For a film with such a delicate premise, Pink Moon does take its time to acknowledge how absurd the situation really is. There are some great comedic bits where Ivan and Iris are having conversations with Jan regarding who is going to get to keep some of his belongings, and it makes for odd, yet surprisingly funny scenes between the three. Imagine if your dad or mom came forward to tell you their next birthday would be their last and they asked you to pick what you’d like to keep to remember them for. It’s weird, but ridiculous at the same time and for the most part the film does a fantastic job at balancing out these two very distinct tones that somehow work perfectly together.
Pink Moon does lose some of its momentum towards the second act as focus is taken away from the family dynamic and it’s almost entirely focused on Iris’ denial of the situation. It is not badly executed per se, but personally I would have much rather seen more of the sibling dilemma rather than spend time with Iris in a restroom stall having oral sex with some random guy. I get what Meulen was going for with this plotline of Iris behaving like an irresponsible teenager again following her father’s wish to die, but I just think we could have spent this screen time giving Ivan more development as his character remains about the same from start to finish. The film does eventually turn around to what we care about, the family dynamic once Iris kidnaps her own father in an attempt to show him the beauty of life. From here, the film sort of abandons its comedic tone in favor for a more emotional and serious tone that carries the character arcs to a cathartic end point.
Despite minor setbacks, Pink Moon is an exquisite celebration of life. I know it might be a bit contradictory given the story being about life coming to a stop, but in the end it is exactly that. By the time Pink Moon nears its final moments, we are treated to an extremely emotional ending that wouldn’t be as impactful if it weren’t for its pitch perfect cinematography. The final ten to fifteen minutes of the film are done in a long-take and this does a marvelous job at immersing you in Iris and Ivan’s position. It radiates a sense of a race against time, waiting for the inevitable to happen as Jan wants to take his life after his 75th birthday party. In life, we take things for granted far more often than we should.We as human beings are way too impatient for our own good, wanting everything to be done in the blink of an eye. We want to move on to the next big thing, not able to breath-in the moment. It’s a constant race against time, and unfortunately time usually wins. But what if for a moment we stop and just live? Pink Moon is an emotional, raw and honest look at mortality. It teaches us to hold on to the little things, enjoy every day as if it were your last, because you never know when life will play games with you and then suddenly everything you hold dear will be gone.
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