Whoever was using this bed
Our life is such a frail existence, and we can die at any point. These are the thoughts crossing Ray’s mind as he comes home from work and notices a woman kneeling beside a man who lies motionless on the sidewalk. Grocery bags containing fruit, vegetables, cans and a carton of milk, now split next to his body, make Ray understand that something as banal and simple as a grocery run can very well be the last moments one gets to spend in this world.
Ray and Iris, a middle-aged couple, are woken up in the middle of the night by a strange phone call – an agitated Englishwoman asks for a certain Mick, pleading with Ray that it’s an urgent matter and that she absolutely needs to talk to him. Ray doesn’t know any Mick and joins Iris back in bed, but the two of them cannot sleep anymore as the implications of the phone call loom over. Who is Mick, what does the woman want with him, why is she calling their number, and most importantly, why does she do it in the middle of the night?
As the two begin to indulge their vices instead of sleeping – cigarettes, alcohol and far too much coffee – darker matters come under discussion. Iris worries about feeling the occasional throb of a blood vessel and correlates it to the numerous antecedents of a stroke in her family. Ray completes the picture by admitting that he’s frequently out of breath and that his heart sometimes pounds so hard that he expects it to burst out of his chest. A switch to happier thoughts doesn’t occur.
‘Whoever Was Using This Bed’, despite its runtime of merely 21 minutes, paints an extremely evocative picture of middle-age – it does so just as much as ‘Amour’, directed by Michael Haneke, did it within the different context of an octogenarian couple. Chiefly, it showcases the paradigm shift in thinking about the future, one which becomes more and more poignant as people pass what they consider to be the midpoint of their lives in terms of length. When I watched ‘Johnny Got His Gun’, a beautiful film about a paraplegic soldier who was trapped in his own body, I was 18 and merely thought about its message in terms of fiction. When Iris, likely over 45, watches a similar production, she can’t help but think if this could soon happen to her, or her loved ones.
‘Whoever Was Using This Bed’, inspired by a short story authored by Raymond Carver, also alludes to the continuous nature of the discovery process between individuals. When they start talking about themes that have never been extensively explored beforehand, such as death and whether or not they would prefer to be unplugged from a life-support apparatus, Ray and Iris find out just how little they know about each other when it comes to these topics.
All in all, ‘Whoever Was Using This Bed’ is a wonderful achievement, both in terms of content, as discussed previously, as well as in terms of presentation. The acting is extremely nuanced and convincing, with both Jean-Marc Barr and Radha Mitchell offering flawless performances. The direction of Andrew Kotatko is very much on point, and, save for one or two bizarre cuts, achieves a very harmonious balance, the perfect medium through which the wonderfully layered message can be transmitted. A fantastic achievement in every regard!