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The Undertaking

Press Reaction

Barry Garron The Hollywood Reporter

"... Emotionally haunting. You can't watch this slice of life and death without wondering what the clients of Lynch & Sons are going through and whether you would have the same courage, dignity and inner strength. ... That's particularly true of the heart-tugging story of a young couple whose 2-year-old son, born with a fatal genetic disease, has little time left. ...

"Nothing on TV quite compares to this touching telefilm produced, directed and written by Miri Navasky and Karen O'Connor. It is devoid of the dark humor that made HBO's 'Six Feet Under' famous. At the same time, it refuses to exploit the grief of those who visit Lynch & Sons. It is somber but not melancholy. ..."

 

Rob Owen Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"PBS's 'Frontline' has long been broadcast television's pre-eminent storyteller for true tales. And it may never have asked us to stare reality in the face quite so directly as in 'The Undertaking' ..."

 

Charlie McCollum San Jose Mercury News

"Every now and then, 'Frontline' ... delves into subjects that are timeless. That's the case tonight with 'The Undertaking,' a thoroughly engaging and extraordinarily moving documentary by veteran 'Frontline' producers Miri Navasky and Karen O'Connor. ... Watching Lynch and those who work with him relate to the dead and living makes for a marvelous hour."

 

Ginia Bellafante The New York Times

"... [I]f there is a single trite sentiment in it -- about grief, dying, disease, resignation, faith, consolation -- it eluded me.

"'The Undertaking' has made a great effort to find voices among the grieving nearly as eloquent as Mr. [Thomas] Lynch's. A young mother, for instance, baffled by the hopefulness of friends and relatives who cannot seem to see that her tiny son, afflicted with a rare genetic disorder, is closer to death every day. The camera lingers on the small boy's face; it lingers on corpses out of hospital gowns and in the suits and Sunday best that will remind mourners of a previous vitality. It asks us to look but it never insists, and it refuses ghoulishness with a somnolent, graceful pacing. ..."

 

George Martin Milford Times (Michigan)

"... There is no playing to the camera, no maudlin appeal for our pity, never a false note. The performances of [Anne] Beardsley, [David] King and the Verrinos are all the more remarkable because they are not performances at all. These are neighbors, and they are going through what many have gone through, and will go through again in the future. Their authenticity makes this documentary shine. ..."

 

Heather Havrilesky Salon.com

"... Interspersed throughout are the poems and insights of the family patriarch, [Thomas] Lynch, who reads his own work with the somber, lyrical tone of a particularly soothing NPR commentator. While these 'deep thoughts' moments might leave some viewers rolling their eyes, Lynch's prose is necessary to lift this enormously heavy subject out of the darkness. ...

"Ultimately 'The Undertaking' offers a sometimes grueling but gracefully crafted reminder of how our experiences with death connect us to one another and awaken us to the preciousness of each day."

 

Matt Roush TV Guide

"Steering clear of Six Feet Under irony, this deeply moving meditation on mortality shows the Lynch family business going about its work with quiet reverence. ... Far from being depressing, The Undertaking lifts the spirits by reminding us that, in Lynch's words, 'The dead matter to the living,' and that the ritual of a funeral helps return the grieving 'to life with the certain knowledge that life has changed.'"

 

Sam Allis The Boston Globe

"... Frontline takes [Thomas Lynch's] message to the screen with mixed results. ... We witness what we've always wondered about: the embalming, the application of makeup, the grisly separation of ash and bone following cremation. ...

"What we don't learn much about, though, are the undertakers themselves, and these are who we're most curious about. ..."

 

John Doyle The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

"... The Undertaking ... is a gloriously good documentary ..."

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posted october 30, 2007

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