With astonishing access to the most intimate moments of life and death, Memento mori brings viewers face-to-face with stories and characters rarely or never-before filmed. Matthew is the 28-year-old victim of a senseless tragedy, fighting for life surrounded by his shocked parents and family. A floor away, a newborn baby is also fading, while her young parents pray for a miracle. Fathers and grandfathers sit in agonizing limbo, hoping they will have a future with their children if the right organs turn up in time.
High above, chartered jets crisscross the skies, bearing precious organs and teams of surgeons from one side of the continent to the other―part of the fascinating and hyper-expensive system for cheating death that is organ-transplant medicine.
But these considerations are far from the minds of Matthew’s family. They must confront the worst possible outcome to their trial, and find, if they can, some goodness in it. Memento mori follows Matthew’s family through the most trying week of their lives, and beyond, to face a strange new reality. They know nothing of the families on the other side of the hospital wall, but the viewer moves from their grief to witness the unspeakable relief and joy that a tragedy like Matthew’s can release.
In a transplant hospital, every facet of the human experience—joy, anguish, pain, and a profound appreciation for the beauty of life and the inevitability of death—is concentrated in one building and let loose to roam the halls. With stunning access, filmmaker Niobe Thompson was able to capture the human side of transplant medicine in unprecedented detail and with unvarnished honesty. We follow as organs are rushed by air and ground ambulance to the hospital, while the ticking clock threatens to slam the door on these efforts. Through long nights in the surgical theatre, in small meeting rooms inside the ICU, and at the patients’ bedsides, we witness the painful decisions that lead to life—and to death.
A remarkable artistic achievement, managing the dangerous power of un-restricted access to humans at their most vulnerable with genuine sympathy and commitment.