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Walking on Water (2002) - Overview, Synopsis, Critique

anna charlie gavin’s gavin

Principal social themes: end-of-life issues, AIDS, homosexuality

Fortissimo. R rating. Featuring: Vince Colosimo, Maria Theodorakis, Nathaniel Dean, Judi Farr, Nicholas Bishop, David Bonney, Daniel Roberts, Anna Lisa Phillips, Timothy Jones. Written by Roger Monk. Cinematography by Robert Humphreys. Edited by Reva Childs. Music by Antony Parlos. Produced by Liz Watts. Directed by Tony Ayers. Color. 90 minutes.


Walking on Water is an independent Australian film about a person with AIDS who asks his friends to euthanize him when his health begins to fail, rather than be transferred to a hospital to die. The film focuses on the repercussions of this decision on these individuals after his death.


As the film opens, interior decorator Gavin Siddons (David Bonney) collapses in his house. He is helped into bed by his lover Charlie (Vince Colosimo) and his business partner Anna (Maria Theodorakis), who both live with him. Gavin tells them that the time has come to carry out their arrangement. They had agreed to help Gavin die with dignity in his own bed at the time of his own choosing, not in any institution. Anna notifies Margaret (Judi Farr), Gavin’s mother, and Simon (Nathaniel Dean), his brother, who fly to Sydney later that day. Simon’s wife and daughter also come. Anna and Charlie explain Gavin’s last desire, to die with dignity. Other friends arrive and everyone gathers at his bedside as he takes his leave of them. Charlie prepares an injection of morphine and other drugs. Gavin’s breathing becomes labored, but he does not die. He is given a second shot, and he finally appears to expire. People begin to leave. A few minutes later, however, Gavin revives. Desperate, Charlie places a plastic bag over Gavin’s head until his breathing permanently stops. Badly shaken, Charlie leaves the room, and Anna calls the funeral home. Two female attendants show up and place the body in a plastic bag. They have difficulty carrying the body down to their van, and Charlie offers to assist.

After the vehicle leaves, everyone sits around, some in silence, some crying, and others watching television. Gavin had given Anna instructions about the arrangements for the funeral, and Margaret feels a little irritated by her take-charge attitude. She tells her to check Gavin’s will before she starts giving away all his things. At the funeral, Anna takes charge again, tearing apart the floral bouquet on the casket because Gavin had insisted that there be no baby’s breath in the arrangement. After the service, Margaret flies back home with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter, but Simon stays to help settle affairs. When Charlie goes for a walk, he returns to find Simon and Anna making passionate love. In private, he berates Anna, saying that Simon is married. She replies that he could not understand, that Simon is so similar to his brother except that he is not a homosexual.

Charlie, Anna, Simon, and two friends go to the ocean, walk down a breakwater (inspiring the title Walking on Water ), and bring Gavin’s ashes to the ocean. They speak their own brief remembrances and smear some of the ashes on their faces. They accidentally drop the entire container into the ocean, then bring it home and dry it in the microwave. Gavin’s will leaves his house equally to Charlie and Anna, who have become enemies. Simon returns home to his wife and child. Arguments flare up between Charlie and Anna. She asks to buy out his share of the house, finally condemning him for the spectacle of Gavin’s demise, particularly the smothering with a plastic bag. Charlie is thunderstruck, and returns to the ocean, thinking about throwing himself in. Anna seeks him out and apologizes. They both recall that their dying friend asked them to watch out for one another. They finally agree to sell Gavin’s home.


Walking on Water is a rather different film, completely poker-faced in execution, yet with elements of black comedy. The primary focus of the film is the psychological burden of Gavin’s euthanasia request. His lengthy death scene is almost excruciating, as every person in the room breathes in synchronization with the dying man. Charlie simply cracks when Gavin apparently revives. The guilt weighs on all of them, yet the film sidesteps how the death certificate was arranged so they were not accused of murder. Each of Gavin’s friends and lovers is haunted by his killing, some sinking into depression or drugs (like Charlie), while Anna acts out her fantasies about Gavin, using his brother as a prop. Simon’s motivations are more obscure, but apparently he saw the lovemaking as a ritual in his brother’s memory. The script is filled with pained vignettes from each of the characters, even Margaret who steals objects from her son’s house that she was too proud to accept as gifts from Anna. The hostility and rivalry between the various characters is intense. Gavin’s ritual of the ashes at the beach bears a similarity to the funeral of Donny in The Big Lebowski (1998), when John Goodman tosses his ashes into the wind and they blow back, coating his face and body. At one point, Charlie places the container with Gavin’s ashes on his friend’s car, and he has to snatch it back as the car pulls away. None of these events seems the slightest bit absurd or amusing to the characters themselves, even as most of their actions have unintended consequences. Even the reconciliation at the end between Anna and Charlie seems illusionary, as they are really just leaving to go their separate ways. They can no longer stand to be near each other since each of them reminds the other of Gavin and their sense of guilt.

Walking Through the Fire [next] [back] Walker, Wyatt T.(1929–) - Minister, civil rights activist, Becomes Minister and Civil Rights Leader, Heads Civil Rights Organization, Chronology

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