North

Barry Keoghan: A teenage boy struggles to be heard as he watches his mother willingly die.

Filmmaker Phil Sheerin tells the story of Aaron, an isolated teenage boy struggling to cope with the deteriorating health of his mom.

Aaron walks into the kitchen and brings the medicine to give his mom, Mary. Meanwhile, Pat is helping her choose what to dress to wear. When he asks what outfit is for, they ignore him. He asks his mom to take her pills, but she pushes them away, asking him to pick a dress. Frustrated, he tells Pat to go upstairs.

We realize everyone is here to spend time with Mary amid the last days of her life. Aaron is clearly unhappy with her resignation. Mary tries to comfort Aaron and tells him everything will be all right. Pat pops in with another dress and Aaron storms out and into the comforts of the barn.

He accidentally cuts his hand trying to feed his dog. So he walks back into the house to treat the wound. In dining room, his uncles joke about the time bullies locked his bike around his neck. When Aaron tells them his mom took it off of him, they suggest he should have taught him to stand up for himself. Aaron won’t let Pat treat his hand and goes to his mom instead.

As Mary applies a bandage, she begins to vomit. Aaron doesn’t know what to do. Pat hurriedly tells him to get a cloth and a pan, but he keeps asking his mom what she needs. Pat tells him to get out. Upset, Aaron goes back to the barn. His dog runs up, wanting to play, but he isn’t in the mood. He tells him no, but the dog persists. Overwhelmed, he kicks him away.

The family gathers around Mary in the bedroom and reminisce about the past. Aaron again asks if she wants to take her medication, and everyone ignores him. When his uncle Richard asks who’s going to inherit the farm, Aaron yells at him and tells him it’s none of his business.

Aaron storms out and Richard follows, telling him that his wife had died a similar death — except she had suffered until the end. Richard continues to tell Aaron that he’s immature and needs to grow up — instead of comforting his mom in her painful last days, he wants her to hold his hand.

Later that evening, Aaron and his mom have a moment alone. She asks him to promise he’ll go to the hospital with her. He reluctantly nods and gives her a hug. Aaron walks through the house and notices each family member struggling to cope with Mary’s last days in their own private way. He goes back to the barn and plays with his dog.

They tell him they’re ready.

Everybody gathers around Mary and a glass of Nembutal, a barbiturate that’s completely painless, is placed in front of her. After they say a prayer, Aaron asks everyone to leave so he can be alone with his mom. Then, he grabs his mom’s hand and tells her he knows what to do. He gives her one last hug and picks up the glass and hands it to her. As she drinks it, he tells her to breathe. She calms down and quietly dies in his loving embrace.

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Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood

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