‘Dick Johnson is Dead’ film looks at what death really means

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Kirsten Johnson on the set of “Dick Johnson is Dead.” Photo by Netflix

Kirsten Johnson made a documentary film about her aging father during the waning years of his life. It follows him through his 80s, as dementia begins to rob him of his memory and independence.

But interspersed with those painful, real-life moments are cinematic death scenes in which Johnson directs her father in heightened dying scenarios. An air conditioner drops on him from an apartment window above. He falls down the stairs. There are some bloodier ones too. It’s a contrast to the slow decline he’s actually living through, and it leads to frank discussions about death.

“Dick Johnson is Dead” is not quite a comedy. It’s a meditation on perceptions of what death really is.