Living 'til the End is a curiously bad film that has a lot of great actors and a promising plot. Firefly's Sean Maher is Jack Whilton, an estate planner whose mounting neuroses and fears blow up into extreme agoraphobia after a psychic tells him he'll be dead within a year. Jack plans to ride it out, barracading himself in his apartment with stacks of vitamin water and echinacea, when he meets Audrey Gershwin (Jaime Ray Newman), who seems like a projection of Director and Writer Amanda Goodwin right down to the similar-sounding name, a writer who is actually dying and wants to make her last few weeks count. Through Audrey's desire for life and courage in the face of death, Jack slowly begins to unfurl himself into the world again.
The most disappointing aspect about this film is that there are moments of brilliance - Maher and Newman, who in addition to being some of the most beautiful people on the planet, are excellent actors. They sell their characters even when everything from the hideous direction to some of the trite phrases they have to spew are against them. It leaves me with a bitter feeling, because despite myself, I have come to care about these characters somehow when a lot of elements about the film have worked against it, but eventually, even this relationship is skewered by how the events of the story are ultimately handled. The film manages to awkwardly close itself off too much when events need to languish and emotions need to seep through into the atmosphere, and lets itself indulge too much in things like an interesting but badly mishandled camera shot when it needs to be more concerned with fluidity and pacing. It's static when it should move and moves too much and too quickly when it should linger. The film zigs when I want to zag, and if only the pieces could have locked perfectly into place, this film would have been an altogether different experience.
The story has an interesting twist at the end that could have emotionally moved me if I only could have connected more with the characters, if certain aspects of their histories could have been hinted at much earlier (such as Jack's relationship with his father or anything personal and intimate about Audrey at all, which we still don't know by the end of the film) and allowed to hover in the background to add mounting tension instead of being dropped in haphazardly at the end to make absolutely no logical and, more importantly, emotional sense whatsoever.
As for the technical side of things - well, I know that indie films only have so much to work with, but I've known some pretty shoe string budget films that still manage to look fluid and beautiful and not, oh, student film. Unfortunately, Living 'til the End falls under the latter category despite what looks like a large enough budget to incorporate some nice outdoor scenery in New York and Paris. The cinematography and lighting consist of washed out greys and cold blues, lending absolutely zero emotional warmth to what needs to be an emotionally-involved film. The direction is particularly awful because it makes itself obnoxiously noticeable: static boring shots with no dynamism to suddenly and jarringly switching angles in order to incorporate something that looks cool but is unnecessary, editing with no sense of emotion or pacing, and either hollow silence that leaves the film painfully wanting or badly misplaced music that is distracting and grating on the ear.
I admit I only watched this film because I wanted to follow Sean Maher's career, but the man deserves far, far better material, and the same goes for Newman. This film could have been miles beyond what is turned out to be, and that's a damn shame.