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Culture Documentary

Tears on the moors

(Netflix)

Documentary

Tears on the moors

In Evelyn, siblings hope a series of hikes in Scotland will help their family heal from the pain of a brother’s suicide

Director Orlando von Einsiedel lost his brother Evelyn to suicide 15 years ago, and he and his family find it too painful to talk about their loss. Determined to change this, Orlando, sister Gwen, and youngest brother Robin set off to reminisce by repeating a series of hikes in Scotland they had traveled with their brother.

Viewers might wonder if having a camera crew record your every breath, word, and stride would inhibit real conversation and emotion. This does not seem to be the case for the siblings, who share fond memories along with the tears and struggles that they’ve put aside for many years. They travel through beautiful hills, valleys, and moors, re-creating photos they took with Evelyn in picturesque locations.

Their mother Harriet joins them for the first few days. She raised the family mostly on her own after a divorce. Mom recalls her son Evelyn’s many wonderful traits, but also the dark periods when his schizophrenia began and deepened. When Dad (Andreas) joins a few days later, tension crackles. Some of the recorded conversations in Evelyn (rated TV-MA on Netflix) are raw, with coarse and profane language.

Two of Evelyn’s friends join the three siblings on the trails. Gradually, the hikers reveal that they all blame themselves for Evelyn’s death: They didn’t see the danger signs, didn’t answer the phone on time, didn’t get the right medical treatments.

Director Orlando confesses the trip is harder than he expected: “I’m struggling just to hold it together.” Gwen complains through tears: “All this is doing is bringing a lot of painful and traumatic things back, and I can’t now make them go away ... stuff I’ve had to spend a long time trying to forget.”

Only someone with a heart of stone could watch this documentary without a box of Kleenex nearby. A Christian who loses a loved one to suicide may feel terrible sorrow and guilt, but he has the comfort of a loving Father’s promises of forgiveness and rest. What about those without such hope?