Movie discussion resource June Again (2020)
Engage with culture without disengaging your faith.
Brief synopsis Yet another in a run of movies about dementia. Noni Hazlehurst leads this heartwarming Australian tale as a woman who we meet as an elderly, nursing-home bound woman. She has a sudden burst of clarity that restores her faculties, lust for life and headstrong, meddling personality. She has a few days to bring her estranged children together and save the family business (and maybe rekindle an old flame). Much to their amazement, June re-enters the lives of her adult children, Ginny (Karvan) and Devon (Curry), and learns that ‘things haven’t gone according to plan’. With limited time but plenty of pluck, she sets about trying to put everything, and everyone, back on track. When her meddling backfires, June sets out on a romantic journey of her own and discovers she needs help from the very people she was trying to rescue.
Questions for discussion
Some general questions might provide enough framework for you to discuss the movie, such as:
- What stood out as the main points/highlights in the movie?
- What themes are explored?
- What assumptions were embedded in the story?
- What challenged you? What questions did it raise for you?
- Are there aspects of the story that resonated with your own experience?
- Are there biblical or theological themes or characters that come to mind?
An Australian take
It’s great to have an Australian take on the movies about dementia released this year. Casting actors with a comedic pedigree, actors much loved by Australian audiences, changes the way the story is told (in contrast, for instance, to the brilliant movie The Father, with its multi-layered, dramatic telling of the story from the perspective of a man with dementia).
=> What did you appreciate about having a uniquely Australian way of telling the story?
‘If I could turn back time’
Many families would love a reprieve for their loved one living with dementia. “If I could turn back time” comes to mind – and ‘if only’: to live again, and love again. Watching loved ones ‘fade away’ is heart wrenching.
Although, of course, a reprieve would also mean the sometimes unhelpful dynamics of family life also resume, so it’s not all plain sailing. June’s daughter Ginny says to her: ‘Can’t you act like a normal mother for once. I have really missed you, you know!’
Memories of difficult conversations and situations may be stirred:
If I could turn back time
If I could find a way
I’d take back those words that have hurt you
And you’d stay
I don’t know why I did the things I did
I don’t know why I said the things I said
Pride’s like a knife, it can cut deep inside
Words are like weapons, they wound sometimes (Cher, If I could turn back time)
=> this might be an opportunity to share experiences about friends and family living with the reality of prolonged and profound loss associated with dementia
=> discuss family dynamics whereby family members with complex histories are now in a reverse dependent/carer relationship, needing to set aside past hurts, disappointments etc to provide the care for elderly parents.
That difficult conversation
(from James Wigney, The Advertiser) Claudia Karvan has a theory as to why Australia – and western society in general – makes so few movies for older generations: we’re scared of dying. ‘I don’t think we like to reflect on our own mortality. I think we are very interested in our individual power and agency and we are very uncomfortable with the fact that we are going to die. And not only are we going to die, we are going to age and we don’t know how we are going to age or what’s going to take us out. It’s a difficult conversation because it can be so confronting and so bleak’.
=> What is your reflection on Karvan’s ‘theory’?
John Travolta in Phenomenon, an average guy who becomes a genius for a short time. Inexplicable at first, but turns out he had a deadly brain tumor that had stimulated his phenomenal brain functions. It is a short interlude before the inevitable demise from his terminal condition but he sets about doing good work with those around him.
In ‘June Again’, the lead character is gifted precious but limited time to be with family, to make amends. She sees herself as coming back ‘just in time’, to intervene in her adult children’s lives and put things right.
=> Imagine yourself in the same situation as June – what would you want to do with the precious time to ‘live again, love again’? How does that impact upon how you live now?
Aged care homes do their best to provide opportunities to gather, play games, do crafts, sing, listen to music etc. (And there are excellent facilities that provide safe and caring environments). But what about the generation that grew up on The Beatles and Rolling Stones, events like Woodstock, the Vietnam War protests etc., who won’t know the words to ‘Daisy, Daisy’ or other sing-a-long songs. The dissonance is very real and disconcerting.
Years ago, a friend suggested her group of friends should buy houses in the same street so they could build their own community network of support rather than face the prospect of going into aged care where they feared losing independence and indeed, for some, their sense of personhood (‘old people all look the same, right?’).
Might the prospect of going into aged care feel a bit like going into someone else’s constructed reality?
Who cheered on June as she ‘did a runner’ from the aged care home?
=> How do you respond?
Devon to June: ‘What is it about the dresser?’
June replies: “It was the one piece of him that I kept”.
There are multiple losses that happen with dementia and sometimes ‘things’ (like ‘the dresser’) provide a tangible link to people and places that remain dear to one’s heart and soul. When people move into aged care, and into a small room with only space for nick nacks, it can be hard to leave behind familiar things that were more than simply ‘objects’. Indeed, families in cleaning up a house after a loved one has moved into care, often have no time for sentimentality and sometimes don’t know the worth of an object (financially or emotionally).
Baby Boomers tell their parents they don’t want the furniture and collectibles accumulated over the years but which must now be thinned down or parted with altogether as they move to smaller quarters. The ‘grown kids’ recoil with something close to horror at the thought of trying to find room” for their parents’ collections, including complete sets of fine china and crystal. For their parents, to have a lifetime of carefully chosen treasures dismissed as garage-sale fodder, can be downright painful. And the same will happen as Baby Boomers downsize and move into retirement villas and aged care. Adult ‘kids’ don’t want the ‘stuff’ their parents have accumulated. Many of today’s millennials are not even interested in keeping the awards, trophies and other memorabilia from their own school days, which their parents have carefully boxed and stored for them. When the kids do eventually look at that stuff, it’s often while taking it out to the trash. Millennials are living their life digitally and that’s how they are capturing their moments. Their whole life is on a computer; they don’t need a shoebox full of greeting cards.” (https://www.redeemer-cincy.org/uploads/files/0820-riseandshine_86.pdf ). Research shows 78% of Millennials prefer to spend money on experience over material possessions and ‘apartment style’ living means younger generations are accumulating far less things.
=> Discuss your own approach to ‘things you treasure’ and perhaps your own experience of treasures being discarded by family to the op shop.
© Rev Sandy Boyce 28th April 2021 Pilgrim Uniting Church, www.pilgrim.org.au
This resource is freely available to download and copy but kindly attribute copyright