The Rest Of Your Life
- Show treatment
How do we emerge from catastrophe and learn to live life differently? The entire world is asking this question right now. Observational documentary The Rest of Your Life explores the same question, in the context of a life-changing accident. It follows father and husband, Alex Rosenberg, for a year as he and his family restart their lives after the catastrophic accident that paralyzes most of Alex’s body. Using intimate footage of daily life, each scene imparts understanding of what it feels like for family members to cope with Alex's transformation. We follow Alex through daily life in the rehabilitation hospital, his move home, his frustration when impulses to help him clash with his desire for independence, and his new ways of approaching fatherhood. And we witness his young sons, Leo (5) and Luca (3), processing their new reality by building a paralyzed lego character. We see them develop pride in their dad’s differences and discover that wheelchairs can be tools of adventure. You won’t find the simplistic inspirational cliche of many disability stories in this film. Rather, it offers insight on coping, accepting, and moving forward. Alex’s story shows that recovery is a messy mix of joy, pain and confusion.
This is a film about resilience after trauma, something the whole world is grappling with right now. Although not many experience an abrupt, life-altering event as severe as paralysis, we all experience strife and unexpected change. This film gives insight into the process of recovery, with its messy mix of joy, pain and confusion. You won’t find the simplistic inspirational cliche of many other disability stories in this film. Rather, it offers insight on coping, accepting, and moving forward. Rebecca Grossman’s observational filmmaking is respectfully intimate and sheds light on the non-linear process of recovery. Her interest in disability and resilience comes from her personal experience struggling with an eating disorder for many years. In her healing, Rebecca realized the freedom and power telling her story gave her and through her filmmaking she wants to help others to experience the freedom and power that storytelling brings. Rebecca was granted unique access to Alex Rosenberg’s recovery as a friend of the family.
Video Sample: This is a 10 min rough cut of first act of the film: https://youtu.be/D9b6vbSDjIM
Act One, Adjustment (8 min): In these four opening scenes, we’re dropped into the daily reality of a family at the start of their recovery after father and husband, Alex, becomes paralyzed in a trampoline accident. Centered around the theme of adjustment, each scene develops intimacy and understanding of what it feels like for individual family members to come to grips with the changes. We follow Alex through a day in the rehabilitation hospital, his eventual move home, and his despair over needing round-the-clock help from his wife, Veronique. And we witness his young sons, Leo (5) and Luca (3), processing their new reality with Legos.
1. A Day in Rehab (3 min): We meet Alex in a close-up singing a karaoke version of the Jackson Five classic, “I Want You Back.” As the camera zooms out, we realize that he is in both a wheelchair and a hospital. His impairments become increasingly clear as he attempts, unsuccessfully, to toss an empty plastic water bottle into the trash. His hand doesn’t release. He uses his teeth to readjust the bottle and tries again. The bottle goes flying, but misses the target. We are left with questions about Alex’s situation, many of which are answered later in the scene when Alex recounts to a group of friends the trampoline accident that paralyzed most of his body.
2. Homecoming (2 min): “This morning Leo woke up and he said ‘this is the happiest day of my life,’” Alex’s wife, Veronique, exclaims emotionally as she shuttles Alex’s belongings to the car. After three months of hospitalization and residential rehab, Alex is returning to his parents’ house where his family has been living. The homecoming includes a pizza party and a massive “Welcome Home Daddy” sign made by Luca.
3. Bedtime Care (2 min): Alex’s paralysis has meant an almost complete loss of independence. In this intimate scene, Veronique helps get Alex ready for bed: flossing his teeth, holding a cup for him to spit into, laying absorbent pads down where he sleeps, and moving him from wheelchair to bed. The palpable sense of humiliation and despair is eventually verbalized when Alex jokes that once she is done helping him, Veronique will go take care of her “other two kids,” voicing the same of his incapacity.
4. Wheelchair Lego Man (1 min): In a complete energy shift, we’re dropped into Luca and Leo’s fantasy play. As the boys rummage through a pile of Lego blocks, Leo notices a Lego man missing legs. “This is the little baby brother, and he’s in a wheelchair!” Leo declares with glee as he attaches a pair of wheels to the figure’s lower half. Later Alex glues the toy to his wheelchair with pride. This scene is a glimpse into ways Leo and Luca come to terms with--and embrace--their new reality.
Act Two, Exploration (9 min): Alex and his family begin to explore, take risks, and experience pride in Alex’s expanding skills in coping with his disability. They ride the subway for the first time, spend a day with a quadrapelic wheelchair builder, and move to a new house. However, tensions arise as Alex’s desire for independence clashes with his family’s impulses to help him.
1. Charlie The Wheelchair Builder (2.5 min): Like Alex, 50-year-old Charlie Croteau became quadroplegic after a trampoline accident. In this scene the family spends a day at Charlie’s house, learning what life looks like for someone who has had a spinal injury for over 30 years. In Charlie’s garage, like footwear, there is a wheelchair for every terrain--all built by Charlie himself. Alex, Leo and Luca try various chairs, doing risky and exhilarating maneuvers with Charlie’s trusting encouragement. Charlie’s collection of unique chairs shows us that wheelchairs can actually be tools for independence, enjoyment and adventure.
2. Unload and Reload (2.5 min): Veronique and friends retrieve the family’s belongings from a storage unit where they have been kept since before Alex’s injury. We learn that the family had been in the process of moving at the time of the injury. Veronique gives a short and powerful monologue, exposing grief for the family’s situation that the normally stoic wife and mother keeps bottled up most of the time. This scene is a juncture in the film, letting us in on more context of the family’s situation, and turning us towards the future: a move into a new house.
3. Stop Helping Me (2 min): The family is able to buy a house of their own and begin renovations for wheelchair accessibility. With some renovations complete, Alex is able to enter and explore the space, but he is given more help than he’d like. The intense frustration Alex experiences and outbursts at his father, Myron, are equal parts uncomfortable and relatable. They force us to consider the grief and frustration of accepting help from parents, especially after years of independence.
4. City Day (2 min): The family embarks on their first subway ride. “This is daddy’s first T-ride!,” Leo gleefully tells strangers. The family is able to navigate the new situation with grace and enjoy a day out together.
Act Three, Emergence (4.5 min): In these two closing scenes shot about a year after Alex’s accident, the family is hitting their stride and emerging into a new chapter of living life with a serious disability. We witness the family run a 5K race together despite tension due to a wheelchair malfunction and the emotional goodbye to Alex’s parents as he departs for his new home. It marks the end of a trying year and the beginning of a new stage in Alex and his family’s life.
1. A Family Race (2 min): A year after the injury and a day before he moves into his new house, an excited Alex embarks on an annual 5K race with the family. His excitement turns to exasperation, however, as mechanical problems with his new handcycle bike make the family late for the race, raising tension between Alex and Myron. Thankfully, the family arrives at the race just in time for a big group photo before the start. This scene exposes more family dynamics and acts as a transition to the next scene in which Alex is preparing to move into his new house.
2. An Ending, A First (2.5 min): Alex is moving out of his parents house and into the house with his wife and sons after a long year in recovery. As he prepares to leave, his mother, Roberta, calls the family together to recite the “shehecheyanu,” a Jewish blessing of firsts. Initially reluctant, he links hands and begins the prayer. Soon, everyone is in tears. The scene ends in a wide shot as Alex rolls down his ramp away from the house--the same shot we saw when Alex first came home from rehab, eight months earlier.
- in post-production
- Rebecca Grossman ... Director
- United States
- Years of Production
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