A documentary focused on a White Rock couple’s enduring love, through sickness and health, will make its world premiere in Vancouver on Jan. 27
Before She’s Gone… shares the story of Stan and Shirley Fryer’s 67-year marriage, and Stan’s role as both husband and caretaker since Shirley’s 2002 diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease.
A project of Stan’s grandson, Arun Fryer, the 19-minute film will make its debut at Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour St.), during the Vancouver Short Film Festival.
Stan said Friday he is “very pleased” with how it turned out. He got a sneak peek at a private showing last summer.
“It’s an incredible memory, quite a journey,” he said.
Stan cared for Shirley at home until just over two years ago, when he was hit with a bout of viral pneumonia, and warned by his doctor that his days were numbered if he continued on as-is.
He’s continued to visit her every day, and the two spend hours at a time just talking and singing together.
Shirley’s Alzheimer’s has progressed to where she forgets each moment as soon as it has passed, but for Stan, the reason for the visits are the same as the reason they got married: love. And he’s confident that love is the reason Shirley is doing as well as she is, both physically and mentally.
“You have to have a lot of love,” he said. “When you have that, the other person feels it. Probably the most important thing is to let them know they’re loved.”
A couple’s journey with Alzheimer’s is “really a test of their love,” he added.
“You have to struggle through it, if you really love the person.”
The message captured in Before She’s Gone… is a “positive and loving” one, Stan said – one aimed at putting a different light on Alzheimer’s.
“I think it would be exciting for people around the world to see that they can make it through Alzheimer’s and still enjoy life.”
The film is not the first time that the Fryers’ journey of devotion has been recognized. In 2014, they were the White Rock honorees for the Investors Group Walk for Memories, the Alzheimer Society of BC’s annual fundraiser.
Arun Fryer said Friday that the society has been a partner in the film project, which he co-produced with his wife, Ana Carrizales. They committed five per cent of donations to a crowd-funding campaign that was launched to support the film to ASBC, resulting in the presentation last year of a cheque for $550.
Because of the campaign’s success – it raised more than $8,800, it is now ‘InDemand,’ meaning donations are still possible at indiegogo.com
Funding was also received from the National Film Board.
Arun said the main point of the film is to promote dialogue; to bring awareness to a brighter side of the Alzheimer’s journey.
“Far too often it seems that we get caught up in the tragedy of everything,” he said.
“We wanted to show another side. We’re trying to tell the love story behind the Alzheimer’s.”
The film – featuring original music by the Peninsula’s own Jason Mitchell – is also not Arun’s first foray onto the screen.
Last year, his feature-length thriller, Cadence, won the “Audience Must-See-Film” Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
He described the opportunity to premiere Before She’s Gone… locally as “quite special.”
He noted it will go live online on The Alzheimer Film Project website following the premiere.
In a preview snippet posted to the crowd-funding page, Stan uses cutlery to describe marriage; how in the beginning, a couple is like two spoons – “really connected. But if the relationship is not looked after, they can become like two knives.
“Two knives can’t be connected at all,” he says. “All they do is stab each other, and that makes life very miserable.”
He and Shirley, he continues, are still like spoons.
“There isn’t such a thing as a honeymoon. Shirley and I are still on our honeymoon. After 67 years, you never stop living like this.
“That’s what keeps life together, makes life beautiful.”
Tickets to the film festival are $15 for adults and $12 for students; a weekend pass is $55 for adults and $42 for students.
For more information on the film festival, visit www.vsff.com