“Dear Uncle, why should we want to live?” writes Buddhist priest Ittetsu Nemoto in a letter to the man who killed himself while Nemoto was a boy. It’s an especially poignant question, because it’s one that he answers every day, over and over and in various ways, in his life’s work of dealing with the suicidally inclined. But it’s also sincere, because the weight of all that sorrow is killing him (well, that and the booze he drinks to ease the strain), and a man who saves lives by establishing human connections needs to consider the kid he’d be leaving behind. Lana Wilson’s documentary portrait of Nemoto triumphs as a story but stumbles as a movie. She gets her camera unobtrusively in place for painful, plain-spoken conversations between the wonderfully sympathetic priest and his unhappy charges, but several of the exchanges between Nemoto and his family feel staged for maximum exposition. And even at 84 minutes, there’s an excess of padding that swaddles the sharp edges: Nemoto dancing at the club, Nemoto riding his motorcycle, Nemoto walking through the city… Still, she’s got a great, complicated subject: a man who notes the irrationality in being “given life without choice” and having “to struggle along the path to death,” but who refuses to abandon his struggle to aid the struggling. (2017) — Matthew Lickona
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