Left on Purpose is a film about the friendship between an aging anti-war activist who has decided that his last political act will be to take his own life and a documentary filmmaker who is struggling to tell the story.
This movie deals sensitively with multiple complex subjects: suicide, right to die, the long term goals of political activism, and the filmmaker's responsibility to intervene. The subject of the film, Mayer Vishner, is a fascinating person who persists in pursuing agency, taking full responsibility for the mess that is his life (both figuratively and literally) and presenting suicide as a responsible option. Thoughtful and sensitive throughout, the film provokes a variety of reactions in the viewer. Sweetness, humor, love, despair, regret, sadness and hope all exist simultaneously in the film. The filmmaker presents his ethical dilemma non-dogmatically and the viewer must cope with the discomfort of witnessing the progression of the friendship between him and the Mr. Vishner while hoping against hope that the seemingly inevitable will not occur. Ultimately, however, this is not a depressing movie, primarily because of what it reveals about the nature of friendships and the determination of individuals for control over their lives.
Left On Purpose is a heart-wrenching study of a man and the choices he makes. Over the progression of the sometimes suprisingly amusing subject the film also becomes a study of the choices a documentary filmmaker must at times make in order to see a project through and what happens when the filmmaker becomes personally intertwined with the subject. Highly recommended as a study of the complexities inherent in the human condition.
This is a terrific documentary. It touches on many important issues such as protest, aging and suicide. In addition, it's really entertaining. It made me want to research the Yippies and the protest leaders of the 1960's - and that was before the recent protesting in our country. It also made me think of all the interesting people and stories who walk past us everyday on the street and we don't have a clue about the depth of people's lives. This movie is really worth seeing.
Mayer Vishner was a conundrum: passionate, witty, tender, fragile, strong-willed and irreversibly broken. Justin Schein chronicles with great humanity and compassion the tale of Mayer’s unraveling. Justin’s voice in the film is a compelling one, as it allows us inside his own pain and frustration as he documents Mayer’s decent. A beautifully made film that haunts me still.
The filmakers take such time establishing the life and passions of activist Mayer Vishner that you feel you know him and identify with his sense of humor. The movie is ultimately a history lesson, a portrait of a human being and what life meant to him. Enlightening and entertaining.