Dick Johnson is Dead Parent Guide
Equal parts darkly comic and tragically sad, this movie walks a weird total tightrope and somehow succeeds.
Parent Movie Review
Dick has been diagnosed with dementia, and his ability to keep up and take care of himself is declining. In order to prepare both of them for the inevitable, his daughter, Kirsten Johnson, sets out to make a film in which Dick suffers increasingly cartoonish accidental deaths – and along the way, explores how she feels about losing her father, and how Dick feels about his deterioration.
This is probably the most unique, compelling, and emotionally complex documentary I’ve ever seen. Equal parts darkly comic and tragically sad, Dick Johnson is Dead walks a weird tonal tightrope, and I could not for the life of me figure out why it works. It’s as if someone told you about a new strawberry-oregano ice cream – and it turned out to be delicious. On paper, this movie should have a massive tone problem but, for whatever reason, it works perfectly.
Dick Johnson Is Dead is completely suitable for family viewing and serves as a good tool for talking about death: something humans are almost invariably bad at. I don’t know that children will get much out of it, but there certainly isn’t any off-putting content. Although there are a number of violent accidents, they are obviously staged –footage of how they set up the stunts is included – and don’t strike me as offensive. The most difficult parts of the film are the scenes reflecting Dick’s slow loss of memory and cognition. Although the long shooting time means we get a good picture of who Dick is before the dementia worsens, watching his inexorable decline is painful for the audience.
I think the biggest reason for the success of the documentary is the fact that Dick Johnson, even as his dementia creeps up on him, is such a wonderfully kind-hearted person. He has a great sense of humor about the whole project, a charming smile, and an openness about his concerns and emotions that is disarming. I doubt this was an intended consequence, but I expect that when Dick Johnson eventually dies, there are going to be a lot more mourners whose grief arises from their experience in getting to know him through this poignant film.Directed by Kirsten Johnson. Starring Ana Hoffman, Dick Johnson, and Kirsten Johnson. Running time: 89 minutes. Theatrical release October 2, 2020. Updated October 2, 2020
Watch the trailer for Dick Johnson is Dead
Dick Johnson is Dead
Rating & Content Info
Why is Dick Johnson is Dead rated PG-13? Dick Johnson is Dead is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements and macabre images.
Violence: There are a few deliberately over-the-top scenes of accidental death, one of which includes spurting blood. These also include the “behind-the-scenes” shots of how they set up the effects and the stunt work involved.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: Occasional use of terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None.
Page last updated October 2, 2020
Dick Johnson is Dead Parents' Guide
How do you think about death? Have you lost someone close to you? How did it affect you? Do you think your reaction would have been different if you prepared for it like Kirsten Johnson has?
Related home video titles:
The Farewell tells the story of a family struggling to deal with their grandmother’s fatal diagnosis. Younger kids who are trying to get a perspective on death might enjoy Coco, which sees a young musician following his family tree all the way into the afterlife for answers. In A Monster Calls, a tree-like creature helps a young boy deal with his mother’s illness.