6 Movies to Start ACP Conversations with Our Parents

Movies to Help You Start ACP Conversations

Apart from the ways shared by experts on how to start Advance Care Planning conversations (ACP) with our parents, another way to kick-start the conversation can be through movies. Holding a movie night to show our parents scenes that touch on life, illnesses, death and mortality can set the mood to talk and reflect on such topics. Movies can help them empathise with the characters and encourage them to express their emotions.

Here is a list of six recommended movies, paired with curated prompts to help you bring up an ACP conversation with your parents.

Movie #1: My Sister's Keeper (2009)

My Sister’s Keeper tells the story of 11-year-old Anna who sues her parents for the rights to her own body. Through Anna’s eyes, this film showcases her family’s struggle to honour her sick older sister’s wish to face death. It also emphasises the importance of having open conversations about ACP with our loved ones. 

Beyond just our end-of-life (EOL) care preferences, ACP is a deeper conversation to reflect on our life, mortality, values and relationships. As we share more about our wishes and beliefs, it can help to improve our relationships, understanding and communication with our loved ones. Additionally, this can ease stress and take the burden off our loved ones as they will be able to better understand what we want when making decisions on our behalf. 

Some prompts you may use include:

  • If you are sick and have a low chance of recovery, would you want to try all treatment options to prolong your life, or focus on your comfort and quality of life?
  • If you are impacted by a serious illness, who would you want to make healthcare decisions on your behalf?
  • If you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, where would you prefer to receive care and why? 
  • If you become sick and lose control of your body, what would you miss doing the most?

Movie #2: The Farewell (2019)

This film revolves around a Chinese-American family who collectively decides to hide the diagnosis of their terminally ill grandmother from her. Upon learning that she only has a few months left to live, the family organises a wedding to gather their extended family in town for one last time. The depiction of various conflicting opinions within a family highlights the importance of ACP, and how our personal beliefs or cultural values may affect decision making. 

Some prompts you may use include:

  • If you were in this situation, would you want your family to tell you the truth or let them do what they think is best?
  • Would you want to make your own care decisions or leave them to someone?
  • What are the top 3 things you would like to do to ensure your familial relationships are harmonious before you pass on?

Movie #3: Little Big Women (孤味) (2020)

In this Taiwanese film, a family deals with the loss of their father who had been absent from their lives for over a decade. In the process of dealing with his death, they are forced to face complicated relationships and family secrets. 

As he did not make his EOL preferences known to his family, several familial disagreements occurred. Set in an Asian context, this film showcases the rippling effects of the death of a loved one on a family – even if they had been absent for a while. It also emphasises the importance of having ACP conversations to understand our loved ones’ values, beliefs and EOL care plans. Knowing these can help us make better choices for them and reduce the potential for family conflicts upon the death of a loved one.

Some prompts you may use include:

  • What is your preferred place of care and death?
  • Who would you want to be present at your funeral?
  • What do you want your funeral to be like?
  • If you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, where would you prefer to receive care and why?

Movie #4: Departures (おくりびと) (2008)

Departures follows a young man who finds himself unexpectedly becoming a nōkanshi – a Japanese ritual mortician who prepares the deceased for their final farewell. As he gains more experience as a nōkanshi, he finds his purpose in life and closure for his relationship with his estranged father.

This film exposes viewers to the varying preferences families may have and presents an opportunity for you to ask your parents about their EOL preferences.

Some prompts you may use include:

  • How do you envision your funeral? (e.g. Funeral provider, desired final attire, who to inform, religion, funeral wake location, funeral wake duration)
  • What is something you have always wanted to tell someone, but never did?
  • What do you worry about the most when it comes to your health?

Movie #5: Coco (2017)

This animated fantasy film centres around 12-year-old Miguel, who was accidentally transported to the afterlife after a heated argument with his family. There, he meets his deceased great-great-grandfather, who is estranged from the family and almost completely forgotten by those he left behind. Through discovering stories of his family, Miguel realises the importance of familial love and eventually helps both his ancestor and himself to reconcile with their loved ones.

This film invites viewers to reflect on our relationships and reminds us to treasure our time and ties with our loved ones. As the story encourages communication and sharing of our unspoken wishes with our loved ones, it can help you bring up ACP with your parents.

Some prompts you may use include: 

  • What is something you have always wanted to tell someone, but never did?
  • If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • Are you afraid of death? Why or why not?

Movie #6: Soul (2020)

Soul is an animated film that follows a music teacher, Joe, who aspires to be a musician. After a near-death experience, Joe ends up on a journey helping a soul find their passion. In this process, Joe realises the things he had taken for granted and finds out what makes his life meaningful. This film emphasises living life to the fullest and reminds us that life is not only about our accomplishments, but also the small things that make it beautiful. 

Soul can help you begin an ACP conversation with your parents by prompting reflection on what our parents value most in life, before segueing to the heavier topics such as their EOL care preferences.

Some prompts you may use include:

  • What gives your life purpose and meaning?
  • What do you feel most grateful for in life?
  • If today was your last day, what would you want to say to your family?
Overview of ACP Conversation Starter Movies

Watch these movies to start ACP conversations with your parents now!

Movies are a great way to ease our parents into heavy topics such as life, illnesses, death and mortality. If you are unsure about which of the above movies you should watch first, check out their trailers on our YouTube playlist!