Writer: Layla O’Shea
Director: Matt Walting
Studio: Leomark Studios
Starring: Katerina Eichenberger, Max MacKenzie, William Galatis, Jesse Walters, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Charlotte Cusmano Zanolli
Just Say Goodbye tells the story of Jesse Peterson (Max Mackenzie). When Jesse was six years old, he found his mother’s body. After years of dealing with mental illness, she overdosed on pills — leaving young Jesse and his father (Rick Peterson, played by William Galatis) behind. Rick burns every shred of evidence that Jesse’s mother existed, turns to alcohol, and leaves Jesse to pretty much raise himself.
The film jumps forward 10 years, and Jesse is in high school. He is a loner, artist-type who spends most of his days with his closest (and seemingly only) friend Sarah Morin (Katerina Eichenberger). Graduation is upon them, and Sarah’s future is looking bright … Jesse’s not so much. From dealing with his alcoholic father to the school bully to not having any plans for his future, Jesse decides that he’s done. He plans to commit suicide. Sarah finds out, and, for the duration of the film, she pleads with Jesse to reconsider.
The narrative is a familiar one, but it’s a story that needs to be told and retold. Every day there are suicides. And the hope is that the more we talk about it, such as with films like Just Say Goodbye, the number of suicides will be greatly reduced. Accordingly, the story that Just Say Goodbye attempts to tell is an important one — no doubt — but, unfortunately it fails in its execution.
The acting is rough. Very rough. And regrettably, it’s that way with all of the main actors. The lines are poorly delivered — to the point where I kept thinking I was watching a dubbed film. Visually, the movie is fine, but it’s all very one-dimensional. The music (though sparse) is the best part of the movie. The soft piano ballads set the right tone; I just wish there was more.
I also take issue with some of the points that the film makes. First, it very much paints the “the ones left behind are the real victims” narrative. Those who commit suicide are simply viewed as selfish. Neither the mother’s mental illness nor Jesse’s suicidal thoughts are examined. Second, and relatedly, it is unclear whether Jesse does have a mental illness or not. Because we never know what his mother’s condition was, we have no idea if it was hereditary or not. Furthermore, Jesse’s life situation — which isn’t great, sure, but not terrible — is positioned as the main impetus for his suicidal thoughts. So, his sudden decision to end it all just feels forced into the story, which consequently cheapens what is a very serious and important topic. Third, Just Say Goodbye — most likely unintentionally — does do one thing very well: it shows just how unprepared people are around someone with suicidal thoughts. And this is very, very frightening. If there’s one thing to get out of the film, it’s this: with the right crisis resources, we can all help prevent suicide.