Signs of Life
Fiction, 70 minutes, 1999.
What happens when you want to die, but can’t? What happens when you want to live, but can’t? A young woman caught between two worlds.
Sarah wanted to die – but didn’t quite make it. Trapped in a body paralysed by immobility and silence, Sarah wants to live – but can’t quite make it. Signs of Life is an intimate film about the will to live and the power of thought and feelings in that process.
Told entirely from the perspective of the central character, Sarah Ives, this is the moving story of a young woman trapped in a body diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state. Yet she can perceive what is going on around her, but is unable to intervene, to explain or to express her feelings.
An attempted suicide has put her into this state; though she now finds herself wanting to live more than ever. However, the medical consensus around her is gradually persuading Sarah’s distraught mother that her daughter is, for all intents and purposes, dead. There is talk of permissions to donate organs, even talk of applying to the Courts to secure a passage to ‘death with dignity’ in the name of Sarah’s ‘quality of life’.
Sarah is unable to be part of this in any way, unable to intervene and demonstrate that she is very much alive, or to express her changing feelings towards her mother, with whom she has had a troubled relationship. There seems little chance of some sort of reconciliation between them. However, the film is about Sarah’s unusual discoveries and realisations, which eventually help her in her struggle.