Critical (Review with Video)

Set in a hospital during an unspecified civil disturbance, this 2007 short film explores an issue that’s even more current today — ending the lives of the critically ill.

Dr. Maureen Jefferson (BJ Harrison) has been keeping her ward together with “duct tape and caffeine” as she says, plus the help of her assistants Jerry (Jason Harder) and Dina (Kelley Doyle). That all changes when a soldier (Gardiner Millar) delivers an evacuation order — for the patients who can survive a bus trip. The rest — in other words, those in critical condition — will be left behind on their own.

The three medical professionals are sharply divided on what to do. Stay with the critical patients, knowing they’ll die anyway if the power goes off? Insist on putting them on the buses, where they can’t survive either? Pull the plug on them?

Jerry declares he’d want to be unplugged. Dina calls that murder, but Jerry believes the patients have come to be no more than machines performing biological functions. Still, Maureen has worked hard to care for them and can’t begin to think of just cutting it all off. As she sees it, that would be a violation of her oath. Her job is to save lives.

This film gives no answers, easy or otherwise, unless one is implied in the closing music. That makes the ending something less than satisfactory. I also found myself wondering who had given the inhumane, unlawful order to abandon the critical patients, and why the soldiers believed they had to carry it out. But that’s another issue. This film isn’t so much about the extreme situation as it is about death, something that comes to all of us.

Jon Ornoy, who wrote, produced, and directed Critical, was recently selected for the Whistler Film Festival’s Feature Project Lab.  He’ll be producing the feature-length dramedy Comedienne.

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