Jack Has a Plan

Jack Has a Plan, 2022, 3 ½ stars

A Plan  to die for

Exclusive to MeierMovies, April 14, 2022

“Nothing in this life that I’ve been trying could equal or surpass the art of dying,” George Harrison sang.

If dying is indeed an art, Jack Tuller is practically Picasso. Faced with a brain tumor that has been slowly killing him for more than two decades, Jack – a San Francisco musician-turned-realtor – partners with a close friend, director Bradley Berman, to film his life and, he presumes, his death. The latter is made possible by California’s End of Life Option Act, enacted in 2016, which gives terminally ill people access to lethal medication.

Though Jack’s specific predicament is unique, the film owes much to many movies that have dealt with dying. Among narrative fiction, The Fault in Our Stars, Harold and Maude, The Fire Within and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl come to mind. (I even stole that famous Harrison line from my review of the latter film from back in 2015.) But Plan owes even more to similarly themed documentaries, such as Life Itself, End of Life, How to Die in Oregon and Dick Johnson Is Dead.

Now that I’ve bibliographically bored you, let me posit that Plan is actually more about living than dying, as Berman’s camera follows Jack off and on over several years, focusing not just on his illness but his quest to discover his own familial identity. And, like Jack, the movie never loses its sense of humor.

At just 73 minutes, the film, though tight, does occasionally feel rushed, and it would have benefitted from inclusion of the story of Jack’s dog, who died shortly before Jack – also presumably of a brain tumor. (Berman relayed this remarkable coincidence to the audience at the recent Florida Film Festival, where the film premiered. Disappointingly, that parallel tale ended up on the cutting-room floor.)

The greatest takeaway from Jack Has a Plan is that only nine other states have legislation similar to California’s. That means that, in a nation built on freedom, perhaps the greatest freedom of all – to decide one’s own fate – is denied to residents of 40 of the 50 states. And the predominant reason seems to be some form or another of religious bullshit. I’m just glad Jack was able to cut through the crap and take control of his own life, and death. And I’m glad Berman’s camera was there to capture it.

© 2022 MeierMovies, LLC

This review is part of my coverage of the 2022 Florida Film Festival. For more information about the event and an index of reviews of other festival films, go here. For more information on this movie, visit IMDB. And to learn about the “Death with Dignity” movement in Florida — the state in which the movie premiered but in which Jack’s “plan” would have been illegal — go here.